It took 11 weeks, but the Lions should finally have all five starters along their offensive line healthy and playing together for the first time this season Sunday in Chicago.
The team has had five different starting combinations upfront in nine games, but none were the one they envisioned they'd feature this season when they built the team back in March.
Left tackle Taylor Decker returned to action last week after missing the first eight games due to offseason shoulder surgery, but a concussion kept starting right guard T.J. Lang out of the lineup. Lang was a full participant in practice Wednesday and Thursday, and is expected to be back in the lineup this week, which means the whole gang is finally back together again upfront.
Barring any unforeseen setbacks, Decker, left guard Graham Glasgow, center Travis Swanson, Lang and right tackle Rick Wagner will be on the field together in a game for the first time on Sunday.
"It's going to be exciting to have everyone together," Decker said after practice Thursday. "And I think we're going to have fun out there."
Usually at this point in the season, teams are dealing with injuries and down numbers at spots, but Detroit is actually the healthiest they've been all season on offense heading into Sunday. Not just upfront, but from a skill position standpoint as well.
"As you go through a season, a lot of times you have injuries and you get less healthy along the way," Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said Thursday. "To be able to look up and get more healthy, that's a benefit.
"We have a bunch of good players on this offense and every week in this league guys are dealing with things, sometimes guys are up, guys are down. When you have a full complement, whenever that is, that's good for the team. That's good for the offense and hopefully we'll see improvement there."
That's the ultimate goal, obviously. The Lions have been good on offense in spurts, but it hasn't been consistent enough. Detroit's offense ranks eighth passing the football, but is 29th rushing and 15th overall.
"When you have all your guys out there, you have a few more things you can do than when you don't," Cooter said. "But this week ... every week changes, and we're not going to just say, "Oh, we're good to go' or 'This is going to be great now.'
"You know, every week's going to be a different week. And the more guys you have out there that are healthy, that are threats and that go make plays, for sure the better for the offense."
GREEN WORKING HARD
Tion Green is kind of the forgotten running back among the five backs Detroit has on the roster. He's been on the 53-man roster all seasons long, but hasn't been active for a game.
He continues to practice and run the scout-team backfield, and tries to make the most of the reps he does get with the offense.
"Just showing you can do it when you get your opportunity," Green said of his practice. "They throw my (butt) out there, now. I'll be standing there not expecting to go in on 3rd and 19 and they'll say, 'Green, go,' and if you're not paying attention in those meetings."
How key have those reps been for Green?
"Bro, that's everything," he said. "Bear in mind the situation I'm in now. We have five running backs and only playing three. I'm not going to squander my opportunity by screwing up my reps, when I do get my one of two opportunities (with offense) at practice. I notice the more they start to trust me the more they give me opportunities. So, I really have to hone in and lock in."
A bigger back (6-0, 220) and a goal line specialist in college, Green joked that it hurts his heart to watch the team on the goal line struggle at times. But he's confident his opportunity will eventually come, and he's determined to make the most of when it does by putting in the work at practice now.
"He's been getting better," Cooter said of Green. "Been practicing a lot this year, getting a lot of carries. Sometimes that's with the scout defense versus the first offense and you see some nice things. I think he's developing his body a little bit, developing the way he sort of sees and understands the game.
"We have multiple backs, we kind of make those decisions week by week, but he's a guy that we feel comfortable with. If he's in the game, he can execute the job that we would ask him to do. And so, Tion's had a good season from a practice perspective and whenever he gets his opportunity, I hope he makes the most of it."
Lions safety Glover Quin earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2014.
If Darius Slay continues to play the way he has through nine games this season, he could earn his first trip in his fifth season.
Maybe there's even a chance that both Quin and Slay could be voted to the Pro Bowl this season the way they're playing.
"That'd be dope," Quin said Wednesday. "I'm happy for Slay. I've been here since he came in as a rookie and I've seen him grow so much as a person, so much as a player.
"To see the success he's having this year, it's great. I've been like a big brother for Slay since he came into the league, and I've been hard on him every day at practice. The standards are really high. I try not to let him slack and it's been good for him and good for me.
"He's always challenging me and going after me and that keeps me sharp and keeps me on my toes, so I think we work really good together."
Slay said this week that Quin has been instrumental in his understanding of formations and schemes, and it's allowed him to play faster with a greater understanding of defensive football.
It's been a good big brother-little brother relationship that's not only benefitted each player, but the Lions as well. They're arguably the two best players on Detroit's defense right now.
"(Quin's) disciplined, he's dedicated, he's smart, he's tough. He works at it, and is a great family man and the whole bit," Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said. "And Slay picked that up right away once he arrived here with him, once they got together I should say, and he's gravitated toward him-goes down in the summertime and works out with him, stays at his house, and goes through his regimen with him.
"I mean, all of those kinds of things that oftentimes you'll find a young guy that won't acknowledge that or won't understand how valuable that sort of relationship can be. And he's utilized it to its fullest. So, I give them both credit."