The offense has been a strength of the Detroit Lions through the early portion of the season. That side of the ball ranks second in points scored (31.7), third in total offense (409.0) and third in rushing (170.3).
But heading into a Week 4 matchup vs. Seattle, the offense is now dealing with a plethora of injuries. The list of offensive players sitting out of practice Wednesday was full of key performers.
It's only Wednesday, so there's still time to get some of these players back on the field Sunday, but it's certainly not ideal.
Center Frank Ragnow (toe) and guard Jonah Jackson (finger) sat out practice. Ragnow was more of a veteran rest day, with the expectation he'll be available Sunday as he was for Minnesota last week.
Tight end T.J. Hockenson (foot), running back D’Andre Swift (ankle/shoulder), and wide receivers Amon-Ra. St. Brown (ankle) and Josh Reynolds (ankle) all sat out practice Wednesday. That's every starting skill position player on offense except for quarterback Jared Goff and wide receiver DJ Chark, who did practice, but was limited with an ankle injury.
"I think Reynolds will be OK, we'll take it day-to-day and see where we're at," Campbell said before practice Wednesday. "Same with Saint, Saint's really day-to-day, he's a little farther than Reynolds, but we'll see. And kind of the same with Swift. Swift and Saint kind of fall in that same boat. So, that's the list."
There is more concern for Swift being available Sunday. Campbell had a pretty honest take on Swift's prognosis for Sunday.
"Swift it had to be significantly better probably to play. I mean, it'd have to be this – the sky's opened up and the bright light comes out and I'm good to go," Campbell said. "And it feels unbelievable and here we go."
The good news is Jamaal Williams stepped in last week and rushed for 87 yards on 20 carries with a couple touchdowns.
St. Brown would be a significant loss, as he leads the team in receptions (23) and receiving yards (253).
"It's just a sprained ankle," St. Brown said in the locker room Wednesday. "Just treating it day by day and hopefully I can come back sooner rather than later."
We'll be keeping a close eye on the injury report this week as Detroit's offensive skill positions are hurting.
Pro Bowl guard Jonah Jackson is hopeful he can return to the field before Detroit's Week 6 bye as he continues to rehab a finger injury.
I asked Jackson at his locker Wednesday why it's so difficult to try and play through a finger injury.
"As an offensive lineman playing the position I am, this (left hand) is my knife and this (right hand) is my gun hand," Jackson explained. "This (right hand with injury) is the power hand. Gripping. This is how you settle in and kind of just shut down the rush. Without this being able to grip him (I'm not as effective)."
The one positive coming out of the Jackson injury is the Lions now know they have terrific depth at guard with Evan Brown and Dan Skipper being able to step in and keep the offensive line rolling. But the Lions can't wait to get their Pro Bowler back, and it sounds like that may be sooner rather than later.
With St. Brown, Chark and Reynolds all dealing with injuries, there's a chance Kalif Raymond and Quintez Cephus could see an increased workload.
Cephus has played just 18 snaps on offense in three games, but was trending upwards and showing he could be a playmaker early last year before a collar bone injury ended his season Week 5. If needed, the Lions expect him to step in and not miss a beat.
"That's why we keep the guys we keep," Lions wide receivers coach Antwaan Randle El said Wednesday. "Knowing they can go out and produce if we need them to. Remember Q last year, he started coming on before he got hurt. It was early, but he was coming along. He'll pick up right where he left off if we need him to be out there."
He caught 15 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns in four and a half games last season before the injury.
Cephus said Wednesday he'll be ready to go and can't wait to make plays if his name is called this week.
Three games into the season, let's take a look at Pro Football Focus' position rankings to see if any Lions players find themselves in the Top 10:
- Penei Sewell is the No. 1 ranked right tackle. His run-blocking grade is the fourth best among all NFL tackles.
- Chris Board has been a third-down specialist for the Lions and has the fifth highest grade among all linebackers.
- Kalif Raymond ranks eighth among punt returners. He currently has a 7.7-yard average per return.
The NFL will celebrate the growing number of nationalities and cultures that make up the fabric of the league with an initiative that will see players wear international flags on their helmets Weeks 4 & 5.
St. Brown will don the German flag.
"My mom is from Germany, so having German grandparents, speaking German, every summer the heritage and culture has been a part of my whole life," he said in a statement released by the league.
"I'm half German. It's a part of me. I love it. In my young career, I have already been amazed to see the influence my culture and heritage has had and I'm excited to continue to see the German representation have an impact within our game."