The Detroit Lions' offense has done a great job through the first month of the season weathering a storm of injuries.
They've had to play games without starting center Frank Ragnow and both starting guards Jonah Jackson and Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Running back D’Andre Swift has been dealing with an ankle injury since Week 1, and he missed last week's game against Seattle. The wide receiver room has also dealt with injuries as Amon-Ra St. Brown and DJ Chark have missed action with ankle injuries. Detroit's Week 6 bye can't come soon enough.
But first, the Lions try to snap a two-game losing streak with a key interconference matchup in New England against the Patriots Sunday.
Detroit could get a significant offensive weapon back for that game, as St. Brown returned to the practice field Friday after missing Wednesday and Thursday.
St. Brown was injured early in the Minnesota game Week 3 when his ankle got rolled up on after making a short catch. It prevented him from playing in last week's game against the Seahawks.
"Any time you can get a player like him back, it helps from production but also just what he brings," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said Friday. "He's a spark plug, he's a leader, he's a hardhat guy. He's going to bring his lunch pail and go to work, so just to have him in any capacity would be very helpful."
St. Brown was leading the Lions in receptions (23), receiving yards (253) and receiving touchdowns (3) after the first three games of the season. He's crafty in the middle of the field and is one of quarterback Jared Goff's favorite targets. He's listed as questionable to play Sunday.
The Patriots' pass defense ranks 11th, allowing just 211.0 yards per contest on average, so getting St. Brown back would certainly be a boost for Detroit.
DECKER & SEWELL
The two constants along Detroit's offensive line the first month of the season have been left tackle Taylor Decker and right tackle Penei Sewell.
Both have been huge catalysts in the run game's success. The Lions are averaging 6.8 yards per rush running off left tackle and 4.5 yards running off right tackle, per Pro Football Focus statistics. Decker's allowed one sack in four games and Sewell's been credited with allowing just a half sack. That's against some really good defensive fronts in Philadelphia, Washington, Minnesota and Seattle.
Both have another good matchup this week against the Patriots pass rush duo of Matthew Judon and Deatrich Wise Jr., who each have four sacks on the year.
"Decker and Sewell have played at a high level all year, and Sewell continues to get better and really get into a groove, and I would say Decker is playing some of the best ball that I've seen," Campbell said.
"I mean he really is – he's playing at a high level, run and pass. So, I like our matchups. Now let me say this, Judon has gotten better every year, and just when you think he's a menace, he takes it up another notch, so he's somebody we've got to pay close attention to. We can't let him wreck this game."
The focus in Allen Park all week has been on the task at hand, which is going on the road and getting a much needed win. It's an opportunity to break the current two-game losing streak and have some positive vibes heading into Detroit's Week 6 bye.
Teams typically like the bye to come more towards the middle of the season, but Campbell said it can't come at a more perfect time this year with all the injuries the Lions are dealing with.
"I mean it actually is a blessing, and so it'll be huge to have this bye next week, because we will get a significant amount of our players back and very good players back," Campbell said.
Detroit currently has 15 players on their injury report and another nine on the injured reserve, physically unable to perform and non-football injury lists.
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Thursday, October 6, 2022.
Rookie third-round pick Kerby Joseph made his NFL debut on defense last week, getting the start in place of the injured Tracy Walker at safety. He played every defensive snap and made three tackles. He was in coverage on Seattle tight end Will Dissly's 17-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter.
"Was very happy with his performance," Lions safeties coach Brian Duker said of Joseph on Friday. "Went out there and I thought he did a great job of communicating. He was where he was supposed to be. Tackled well. Obviously had the touchdown catch given up on him. Just a little technique thing there he can work on. Something he's really emphasized this week."
Things should settle down for Joseph with his debut out of the way. Duker said he's excited to start to see the growth from his rookie safety week to week.
Running back Jamaal Williams leads the NFL with six rushing touchdowns, a franchise record through four games. His three multi-rushing touchdown games are tied for the second most a Lions player has produced in a single season, trailing only Barry Sanders' five in 1991.