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NOTEBOOK: How will Lions replace McNeill's production?

The Detroit Lions will be without one of their starters on defense for at least the next four games.

The team placed third-year defensive lineman Alim McNeill on injured reserve with a knee injury, meaning he'll miss at the least the next four games against Chicago, Denver, Minnesota and Dallas.

"Losing Mac for these four weeks is going to be tough," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said Wednesday. "He's been a reliable, steady, productive player for us. He's really come into his own this year. He's just grown every year, but this year, he was big. He was a force for us. Guys got a lot of respect for him, so that hurts. But at the same token, this train moves on."

McNeill was having a career year with five sacks and nine quarterback hits this season. Aidan Hutchinson leads the team with 5.5 sacks. McNeill transformed his body this offseason trimming weight and body fat to increase speed and quickness, and it's paid off as he's been one of the best interior linemen in the NFL through 14 weeks. Pro Football Focus has him graded as the seventh best interior defender in football.

The Lions made a move Tuesday to bolster the interior of their defensive line, signing former first-round pick and 13-year veteran Tyson Alualu to their practice squad. Alualu 36, was a first-round pick by the Jaguars in 2010, played seven seasons with the Jaguars and six with the Steelers, making two starts and appearing in all 17 games last season.

"He's a guy who brings the floor (up). He brings stability," Campbell said of Alualu. "So you kinda know what you're going to get, exactly what you're going to get, and that brings us comfort. He's got a little versatility to him, and there again, he's an addition to the roster. So once we get him to where we feel like, 'Alright he's in game shape,' or he's ready to do that, then we'll make a decision. Let's see if he can help us."

Benito Jones and practice squad defensive lineman Quinton Bohanna have split starting duties next to McNeill for most of the season. Third-year defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike, veteran Isaiah Buggs and rookie Brodric Martin have played sparingly this season but could be called upon to play a bigger role with McNeill out and Alualu potentially needing some time to get his football legs under him.

"It's a great opportunity for those guys and that's all you can ask for," Campbell said.


Linebacker Alex Anzalone had a smile ear to ear when asked Wednesday about the birth of his daughter, Carter, last week.

Anzalone has a lot to smile about this week. Not only celebrating the addition to his family but also returning to the practice field after missing practice all last week and the Saints game due to a hand injury suffered in the loss to the Packers on Thanksgiving.

Despite having surgery the Sunday after Thanksgiving, Anzalone was back at practice Wednesday with a custom brace to protect a screw he had placed in his thumb.

"It's been a tough but blessed week," he said Wednesday. "It was good (being back at practice). Every time you have a setback and watch on the couch for a game it kind of gets you motivated and excited to go back to work."

Jack Campbell, Derrick Barnes, Malcolm Rodriguez and Jalen Reeves-Maybin held down the fort nicely at linebacker for the Lions in a win Sunday but getting their captain and leading tackler back on the field this week against quarterback Justin Fields and the Bears' offense would be huge for the Lions' defense.

Anzalone said playing Sunday will be about pain management but it was good sign he was back at practice on Wednesday.

View photos of the starters for the Chicago Bears.


The list of starting quarterbacks in the NFL that have been lost for the season, are currently on IR or recently injured seems like it's as long as it has ever been.

And for some of those teams dealing with injuries at quarterback the backup play has been spotty at best.

Lions quarterback Jared Goff has avoided injury through 14 weeks, but if something were to happen to Detroit's starter the Lions are in a good spot with veteran Teddy Bridgewater serving as their backup. He is 33-32 in games he's started and has completed 66.4 percent of his passes for over 15,000 yards with 75 touchdowns and 47 interceptions.

"I think if you ask coach Campbell this question, he'll say,' That's why Teddy is here,'" quarterbacks coach Mark Brunell said Wednesday. "He is a proven winner. He has proven he can come off the bench and win five games in a row for you, if necessary, did that in New Orleans. For a very, very old man he can still play quarterback at a high level. No question.

"I love having Teddy. He's been great for Jared on gameday. He's been great for the room. He brings a lot of value to the quarterback room and if called upon, I think we would all be very comfortable if Teddy had to go in there. I love him to death. We want Jared upright and healthy and being our guy, but if necessary, Teddy would step in and do just fine."


Reeves-Maybin was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week after recording four special teams tackles in the win over New Orleans. He is Detroit's first non-kicker, non-punter or non-return specialist to win the award since Bracy Walker in 2004.

Reeves-Maybin is tied with Pittsburgh's Miles Killebrew for the NFL lead with 11 special teams tackles on the year. On Sunday, he also played 20 snaps on defense and added two more tackles, a quarterback hit and a pass defended.

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