The contributions the Lions are getting from their rookie class and the impact they've had on the team's 8-2 start can't be understated.
Rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs has produced 512 rushing yards on 98 carries with five touchdowns to go along with 37 receptions for 259 yards. Rookie tight end Sam LaPorta has 50 receptions for 492 yards and four touchdowns. The Lions' 1,265 yards from rookies are the second most behind only Green Bay (1,372). Rookie Colby Sorsdal made his first start at left guard Sunday in the win over the Bears in place of the injured Jonah Jackson.
Defensively, rookie linebacker Jack Campbell, defensive back Brian Branch, and defensive lineman Brodric Martin have combined for 93 tackles, nine tackles for loss and six passes defended. Branch, who has been the starter at the nickel cornerback spot since Week 1, leads the team with seven tackles for loss and has the only defensive touchdown on the season for the Lions with his 50-yard pick-six of Patrick Mahomes in Detroit's Week 1 win in Kansas City.
"When I was at New Orleans, we had some pretty good crop of young guys, but this group is something else," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said Tuesday.
"They're all contributing, and they really have come up big in critical moments for us and that's not always the case with that many young guys.
"We're fortunate to have them. It shows that they're developing, their teammates trust them, the coaches, we trust them to put them in those situations and they're very much a part of why we're winning. They are, so they're doing well."
Lions third-year defensive lineman Alim McNeill had the goal coming into this season to play more on the opponent side of the line of scrimmage. It's been well documented how he transformed his body this offseason, losing weight and adding quickness in hopes of accomplishing that goal.
Through 11 weeks of football McNeill is playing the best football of his career. He's the sixth highest graded interior defender by Pro Football Focus and already has a career-high 5.0 sacks with seven games remaining.
"He's playing big right now," Campbell said of McNeill. "He's having a really, really good season and I thought he really showed up (Sunday) night. And he played physical. I thought he won his one-on-ones.
"He's winning these one-on-ones right now with violence and he's able to shed the block and he's really – he's giving us some interior rush right now. And that's all technique, effort and he's maximizing his ability right now. So, he is a vital part of what we are and what we can be on defense. I mean, he is, he's playing at a high level."
McNeill has also notched career highs in tackles for loss (6) and quarterback hits (9) so far this season.
"That's the only way you can have success in this league is playing on the other side of the line of scrimmage," McNeill said this week. "If you're playing at the line of scrimmage or behind it, it's not going to do you any good. The goal was to create and wreak havoc on the offensive line the best we can."
PRIVILEGE TO PLAY
Dan Campbell grew in Texas as a Dallas Cowboys fan, so he knows the importance of the Thanksgiving tradition. He'll address that more Wednesday with the players, but talking to the media Tuesday he talked about it being a privilege to play on Thanksgiving. He wants his players to embrace it and most importantly he wants to bring a victory to the Lions on Thanksgiving for the first time since 2016.
"It's a privilege for our guys," Campbell said. "And everybody's watching, all your family, all your friends and this is the type of game, man, you come out of and you've got somebody you went to school with in second grade who's texting you and you just – you forgot until he texted you and you're like, 'Oh, oh my God.'
"And family members, everything – and so, it's kind of cool like that. It's special. So, we'll kind of hit that a little bit more tomorrow."
AT LEAST ONE MORE WEEK FOR IRVIN
Veteran edge rusher Bruce Irvin, 36, is not expected to make his Lions debut this week after being signed to Detroit's practice squad last Wednesday.
Campbell said Irvin is working hard and learning the scheme and is in good shape, but football shape is a little different for a player who's been sitting out the last couple months. Campbell and the Lions want to be smart with Irvin.