Lions head coach Dan Campbell ruled out wide receiver Tyrell Williams and defensive end Kevin Strong for Monday night's game in Green Bay after both players suffered concussions last week vs. San Francisco. Neither player practiced all week, and now the Lions will need other guys to step up and make plays in their place.
It's expected to be a collective effort at receiver filling in for Williams, but one name to keep an eye on is Trinity Benson. The Lions traded for Benson last week. Benson got some good run in last week's game (49 snaps), even though he arrived in Detroit just three days prior.
Campbell said those reps and the extra week of practice have really helped Benson learn the offense, and he's expected to play a bigger role with Williams out.
"We certainly didn't want him to get that type of load (Week 1), but it happened with Tyrell going down and when you run that many plays all hands are on deck," Campbell said of Benson. "I think it was a learning experience for him, but it kind of got him acclimated to our offense and I feel like he's a step ahead of where he was a week ago, you can see it in practice. Feel pretty good about him going into this one."
Another receiver Campbell talked about needing to step up and fill in was second-year player Quintez Cephus, who caught a touchdown pass last week. Campbell said Cephus has to clean up some technique stuff, but likes the fact that he can play some "bully ball" on the outside when the ball is in the air. Cephus is another player who could see more action with Williams sidelined.
With Strong out, the Lions will look toward rookie Levi Onwuzurike to fill in the interior defensive line rotation. Detroit's second-round pick this offseason missed the opener due to a hip injury, but he's been a full participant in practice this week, and the Lions are looking for him to give them some good reps Monday night.
"The biggest thing we're looking for is for him to play hard," defensive line coach Todd Wash said Saturday of Onwuzurike. "That's one thing we talk about with our rookies. That's really the only thing they can totally control is their effort. We want to see tremendous effort out of him and just the physical play we think he's going to bring. I look forward to seeing him against really good competition."
Wash also talked about veterans Michael Brockers and Nick Williams needing to knock some of the rust off from missing time in camp and playing better than they did against the 49ers Week 1.
FLY AND FORGET
Rookie Ifeatu Melifonwu is expected to make his first start at cornerback in place of Jeff Okudah. Campbell said Melifonwu's had a good week of practice in preparation for the start, and the biggest message he and the coaches have tried to give Melifonwu is to play hard, leave it all on the field and have a short memory.
"I think the big thing for him is, 'Listen, there may be some things that happen. Just put it behind you, man. Let's go to the next play,'" Campbell said. "That's what I want him – it's not about him getting beat. If it happens, it's about, 'I want to see the very next play. How does he respond to that or is that going to lead into the next play being a bad one because you're worried about what happened or you're losing your confidence? Just go fight. Just go battle. Do what you have been coached to do, how (defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant) AP coached you.'
"This quarterback is a good quarterback, (wide receiver Davante Adams) 17 is a good player. We know they're going to go after him. Why wouldn't they? We would. We would do the same thing, but I also know this, I've seen Aaron Rodgers go after veteran cornerbacks. It's what they do."
CALLING HIS SHOT
There are some offensive and defensive coordinators that like to call the game up in the box with an elevated view of the field so they can get a big picture look at what's going on below them on the field.
Others choose to be on the sideline in the thick of the action alongside their players. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn prefers the latter.
"I like being around the players," Glenn said this week. "I want to look them in the eye. I want to feel their emotion. I want them to feel my emotion and my passion for the game. There's something about being around them that gets me excited."
Glenn said last week safety Tracy Walker came up to him on the sideline and said, 'Coach, I'm ready to pressure.' Glenn dialed up a safety blitz in the fourth quarter and Walker got home for the sack.
"That communication is vital to me as a play caller to be able to know just exactly how your players are operating and how they're feeling at that time," Glenn said.
- Glenn said this week there's an emphasis on limiting the big plays the Packers' offense thrives on. Glenn utilizes a split-safety scheme. Expect the Lions to have at least one of their safeties as the deepest man on the field Monday night.