Jerry Jacobs and Josh Paschal are on the clock.
The Lions started each player's return-to-play clock Wednesday with both defenders returning to the practice field. The team now has 21 days to move them to the active roster or place them on IR.
"We like both of those players," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said Wednesday. "Jerry was a starter for us at one point last year. It'll be good to get them back and begin to work into practice."
Jacobs, an undrafted cornerback who played his way into the starting lineup midseason last year, tore his ACL in December in Denver. He's been rehabbing hard ever since and his return could certainly give the secondary a boost. He allowed just one touchdown all season last year in 313 coverage snaps.
"Lock up. Shut down one side of the field. Whatever they need, really. Tackling," Jacobs said Wednesday, when asked what kind of boost his return can be to the defense. "We need it all. But I feel like I can shut down one side of the field."
Jacobs has never lacked confidence.
Paschal, a defensive lineman out of Kentucky who was Detroit's second-round pick in this year's NFL Draft, missed all of training camp after undergoing surgery in the summer to fix a sports hernia injury. He had 37 starts at Kentucky with 37 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. He set personal highs in 2021 with 15.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks for the Wildcats.
"I was very eager (to get back to practice)," Paschal said Wednesday. "This is my first official NFL practice today. A lot of exciting emotions going on. Of course, I'm a young player, but I want to help the team anyway I can."
Paschal said he's eager to add some pass rush, run-stopping ability and depth along the interior of Detroit's defensive line.
The Lions' defense could certainly stand to use an infusion of some fresh blood and playmaking ability. They currently rank 30th or worse in points allowed, total defense, run defense and pass defense.
JACKSON BACK AT PRACTICE
Also back at practice Wednesday was Pro Bowl left guard Jonah Jackson, who missed the last three games with a ring finger injury on his right hand.
After losing right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai to a back injury before the season started, losing Jackson certainly wasn't ideal, but the Lions have handled the loss of two starting guards pretty well so far. Logan Stenberg, Evan Brown and Dan Skipper held down the fort.
But potentially getting a Pro Bowl player back along an offensive line that's already playing great will give Detroit's No. 1-ranked offense even more of a lift.
BAILEY ZAPPE PREP
Can the Lions glean anything from the week they spent coaching Bailey Zappe at the Senior Bowl? He might be New England's starting quarterback this week against the Lions.
"Highly intelligent," Campbell said of Zappe. "He picked up the offense very quickly. Very composed. Just had a good command of the huddle. Teammates respected him. You could tell they listened to him. And he plays that way."
Patriots starting quarterback Mac Jones is dealing with a high-ankle sprain and missed last week's game. Backup Brian Hoyer suffered a concussion in the loss to Green Bay last week, leaving Zappe to play the second half. Zappe was 10-of-15 passing for 99 yards and a touchdown.
"I thought (the Patriots) did a good job with him (last week) just trying to get him settled in," Campbell said. "Being smart and not putting him in a bind. Continue to run the football and do things to get the ball out. I thought coach (Matt) Patricia called a good game."
The one thing Campbell knows about preparing to play a Bill Belichick-coached Patriots team is that Campbell better have a good plan because they will try and take away what the Lions do best on either side of the ball.
"They are never going to let the best player beat them on either side of the ball," Campbell said. "Whatever you do well is what they are going to try and take away first and foremost."
The good thing for the Lions offensively is they run the ball and throw it with equal efficiency.
Campbell went on to say a Belichick-coached defense is always opportunistic and looking to turn the ball over, so that will be big this week for the offense to limit the turnovers. New England's defense also likes to make opposing offenses play the long game and try to force them into beating themselves. New England will show some new things they haven't put on tape yet.
Campbell said rookie wide receiver Jameson Williams' rehab from a torn ACL has really started to pick up over the last three weeks, but don't expect him to be ready to return to game action for 'a good time after the bye.'