The Detroit Lions will likely be without two key starters on both sides of the football Sunday as wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (abdomen) and nickel cornerback Brian Branch (ankle) missed practice all week. St. Brown is listed as doubtful on Friday's injury report, while Branch has already been ruled out.
Lions head coach Dan Campbell said Friday they were going to wait until Saturday morning to see how St. Brown feels before deciding on his status for Sunday. He injured his abdomen during last week's win in Green Bay. He was able to finish the game but felt the residual effects afterwards and said this week he's been dealing with pain.
"We're going to continue to work with him on the side and I think (Saturday's) going to tell us a lot," Campbell said. "I don't want to push it today. So, I think we'll know a lot more after tomorrow morning."
Branch injured his ankle last week against the Packers, returned to the game after X-rays were negative, but left again late after aggravating it. While St. Brown was working off to the side with trainers at practice this week, Branch wasn't spotted at all.
"Don't feel as good about him this weekend, but there again, I don't think it's long term – that's why we didn't put him on IR," Campbell said of Branch. "So, we're hopeful for Tampa but we'll just have to play it by ear."
St. Brown leads the Lions in targets (35), receptions (26), receiving yards (331) and is tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions with two. The Lions have some other weapons on offense, especially with wide receiver Jameson Williams back in the fold this week after having his gambling suspension lifted.
Veteran Will Harris is expected to take over in the nickel cornerback role for Branch. A five-year veteran, Harris has played in 68 career games with 38 starts. He knows Carolina slot receiver Adam Thielen well from their matchups against one another when Thielen was in Minnesota.
Lions second-year edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson takes pride in the fact that he's played in 91 percent of Detroit's defensive snaps through the first four games of the season. Hutchinson is fourth among all Lions defenders with 237 snaps, trailing only cornerbacks Cam Sutton and Jerry Jacobs and linebacker Alex Anzalone. He's in the top five among all edge rushers in reps played around the league.
"I pride myself on how I work in the offseason and how I really take care of my body all throughout the year," Hutchinson said this week. "Really has me in there feeling fresh for a lot of those plays. I take a lot of pride in it. I'm happy to be out there all the time. I always want to be out there with the boys."
It's not just how much Hutchinson is playing but also where he's been playing that's made him so unique and so valuable for Detroit's defense. Hutchinson has moved all across the defensive front and he been very productive when rushing from the interior. Hutchinson said if there's a matchup advantage with a guard he can take advantage of, he loves those opportunities.
"John Fox came up to me in camp and he was telling me when Michael Strahan broke the sack record that like half of his sacks were on the interior," Hutchinson said. "He was saying every edge guy they never want to rush inside. But it's like, it can be a lot easier just depending on how things go to get production.
"After I heard that, I kinda just committed to it and was like, 'alright, screw it, dude. I'm gonna just listen to the old man and do it.' And it's been working out."
Hutchinson leads the league with 27 pressures and has 3.5 sacks through four games. Carolina guard Chandler Zavala has allowed a league-high 28 pressures and three sacks among guards this season.
It will be almost a year to the day since Emmanuel Moseley tore his ACL Week 5 last year starting at cornerback for San Francisco in a win over Carolina.
Moseley suffered a small setback ahead of training camp and then a nagging hamstring injury further delayed his return. But now it looks like the veteran will finally get to strap it up and make his Lions debut Sunday at Ford Field.
"Very, very excited. It's been a long time," Moseley said Thursday. "Finally, being able to go out there is definitely a blessing to touch the field again after the injury I had."
With the defense playing as well as they have to begin the year Moseley said he's just excited just to get back into the fold and play his part in continuing Detroit's terrific start.
"Well, it makes us better. We believe it'll make us better," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said of Moseley's return. "He's another guy we'd like to see if we can get going this week. And there again, if he does, he's a guy that we don't feel like it be smart to play him 60 plays either.
"But he's certainly somebody that we feel like, 'Alright, let's get a look at this week.' Feel like the time's right and he'll get a little bit. Jerry (Jacobs) will still certainly – would take the load but I think the plan is to get E-Man worked in."