It is looking more and more like the Detroit Lions will have the services of the reigning NFC Defensive Player of the Week Kerby Joseph for Sunday's game in Chicago.
The rookie safety left last week's win over the Packers in the fourth quarter to be evaluated for a concussion. He's been working his way through the NFL's return-to-play concussion protocol this week, and was a full participant in practice Friday, according to head coach Dan Campbell, after being limited Wednesday and Thursday while wearing a red no-contact jersey.
"Not setbacks there," Campbell said of Joseph. "He's passed all the protocols to this point. He's full go today. As long as there's no issues, he should be good for the game."
That's obviously great news for the Lions' defense. Joseph is coming off a 10-tackle, two-interception performance last week against the Packers, which earned him NFC Player of the Week honors.
Joseph has a three-game of streak of forcing a takeaway dating back to Week 7 in Dallas, and is quickly becoming one of Detroit's best playmakers on defense.
The Lions will try to get out of the offensive funk they've been in over the last month Sunday in Chicago.
The Lions scored 140 points the first four weeks of the season. The last four that's dropped by more than half to 48. Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said a lot of that is due to a significant drop in explosive plays. The Lions identify explosive plays as a run of 12-plus yards or a pass of 16-plus yards.
Over the first four games of the season, the Lions averaged 9.25 explosive plays per game and twice reached 10 such plays against Minnesota and Seattle. The last four games that average has dropped to six per contest with a high of just eight against New England. The last two weeks they have just nine total.
"The explosive game hasn't been there and that's not just throwing the ball down the field or getting the big runs," Johnson said this week. "It's also some of these opportunities we have to get the ball in our hands short and making a tackler miss and creating something that way."
It's no secret that running back D’Andre Swift's absence and limited status since Week 3 has played a significant role in that. Losing wide receiver DJ Chark to IR and wide receiver Josh Reynolds dealing with a multitude of injuries over the last month hasn't helped either. Now the Lions must navigate around the trade of a proven playmaker in tight end T.J. Hockenson.
"We're always on the search to be – get those explosive – when we do those explosive plays it typically generates more points for us," Johnson said. "But like I said if we're not quite as explosive it was encouraging to see that second touchdown drive (last week in the win vs. Green Bay).
"OK, well shoot we'll just methodically – take it on down and that can still result in points. It's just when you play ball that way the margin of error gets a little bit smaller and you've got to be great on third down, which we haven't been. So, to me that's the difference between early in the season and the last few games is the explosive plays haven't quite been there."
Can the Lions find a way to get the explosive plays back into their offense this week against Chicago?
The Lions have rushed for 1,074 yards with a five-yard average through eight games, and a big reason why is the durability and consistency shown by veteran Jamaal Williams all season long.
Williams has played in all eight of Detroit's games this season. He's rushed for 545 rushing yards with a 4.3-yard average and eight touchdowns. He's on pace for his first 1,000-yard season of his career.
"Durable," running backs coach Duce Staley said Friday of Williams. "That's the one thing you look at. As much as we run the ball, got to have a guy like that. You've got to have a guy that's consistent and durable and he's been both."
In honor of Veterans Day, Lions players and coaches shared their appreciation for all those who have served. See the full video below: