The statistics aren’t good when it comes to the Arizona Cardinals' offense this season. They are currently last in points scored (14.6), last in total offense (239.3), last in passing (153.3) and second to last in rushing (86.0). It's been a struggle on that side of the ball for them this season.
Arizona is starting a rookie quarterback (Josh Rosen), which is always going to be a bit of a roller coaster ride. Then there’s the issues they’ve had along their offensive line. The Cardinals have been decimated by injuries up front with six linemen already being placed on injured reserve. All five starters from training camp are done for the year, and the Cardinals will start three rookies upfront Sunday against the Lions.
Another recent injury casualty for them is wide receiver Christian Kirk, their leading pass catcher on the year with 590 receiving yards, who was placed on IR just this week.
It's a lot to process, but don’t think for a minute the Lions' defense is taking the Cardinals' offense lightly or getting lulled into some sense of security thinking they’ll simply waltz into State Farm Stadium and dominate the game defensively.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know (they were ranked last in all those categories),” Lions safety Glover Quin said. “I don’t really look at the stats like that. I just look at the film. On film, they throw the ball, they catch it and they have guys that can make plays. That’s kind of how I look at it.
“They have David Johnson. They have Larry Fitzgerald. For me, that’s kind of what I pay attention to because it’s the NFL and any given day a team can go for 400 yards.”
It was just two seasons ago that Johnson accounted for over 2,000 total yards and 20 touchdowns and was named an All Pro. His numbers are down this season, but he does still have over 1,000 scrimmage yards and is one of the best two-way running backs in the NFL.
Fitzgerald is a sure-fire Hall of Famer, and if anyone saw that 32-yard catch he had on 3rd and 23 at Green Bay last week in the game-winning drive against the Packers, he hasn't lost a step or an ability to make big plays.
“Anything can happen on any given Sunday,” Lions defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said. “I understand what their record is and how they’ve been and what they’re trying to figure out with their pieces upfront and their quarterback, but they’re coming along. As long as you have a guy like Larry Fitzgerald, that offense is always going to move.”
Facing a rookie quarterback in Sam Darnold Week 1, the Lions allowed 349 yards of offense and 34 points put on the board by the Jets' offense in a 48-17 loss.
They’ll be ready to play Sunday, and won’t be taking the Cardinals lightly one bit.
STILL NO KERRYON
Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson was the only member of the current 53-man roster to sit out Thursday’s open portion of practice.
That doesn’t bode well for a return in Arizona Sunday, though the Lions do have one more day of practice scheduled Friday.
If Johnson sits out a third-straight game, veteran LeGerrette Blount will likely lead Detroit’s rushing efforts once again. Blount’s rushed for 149 yards (4.3 average) with two touchdowns the last two weeks filling in for Johnson.
STAFFORD WALTER PAYTON NOMINEE
Matthew Stafford is the Detroit Lions nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. The award recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field. Each of the league’s 32 teams has one nominee.
“Obviously humbling,” Stafford said Thursday of being the Lions’ nominee. “He (Payton) was obviously a great player and great person in the community and obviously has a lot of respect throughout the league. This is an award that is given out to some pretty special guys. It’s nice to be mentioned with those guys. I take a lot of pride in trying to help out this community as much as I can and I’m obviously honored to be honored for it.”
Among his many charitable donations, Stafford’s most wide-ranging community commitment has been with S.A.Y. Detroit, which aims to improve the lives of disadvantaged citizens through shelter, food, care, volunteer efforts and education. He’s revived and maintained the Lipke Recreation Center in 2015 after city budget cuts forced it to close. He’s also worked with Blue Cross Blue Shield and the American Red Cross.
ANOTHER GOOD ONE
The NFL is currently going through a revitalization at the running back position. The league is now littered with a bunch of talented two-way backs that have become the staple of their team's offense.
The Lions have seen their fair share of those backs this season, and will see another one Sunday in Johnson.
“We’re going against probably one of the most elite backs in the NFL for another week.” Jean Francois said.
The Lions have already faced Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley and Christian McCaffrey this season, three of the best in the business.
In Week 4, Elliott rushed for 152 yards and caught four passes for 88 yards. He’s become much more than just a runner in Dallas’ offense these days. He has 53 receptions on the year, on top of being the league’s second leading rusher.
The leading rusher is Gurley, who racked up 132 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns and another 33 receiving yards on three catches last week against Detroit.
McCaffrey combined for more than 100 total yards in a Week 11 loss in Detroit.
While his numbers may be down this season, Johnson is very capable of having a similar performance if the Lions aren’t careful.