It appears the Detroit Lions are closer to getting a big piece to their offense back on the field this week when they hit the road to play the NFC South leading Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) on Sunday.
Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, who missed last week's win over Carolina due to an abdominal injury, was back on the practice field for Detroit Wednesday during the open period to media and is trending toward rejoining the starting lineup vs. the Buccaneers.
"I feel a lot better about Saint (St. Brown)," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said Wednesday. "I think Saint will be out there practicing a little bit."
Wide receiver Josh Reynolds, running back David Montgomery and tight end Sam LaPorta stepped up last week and helped fill the void offensively with St. Brown out, but getting Detroit's No. 1 in the passing game back is a big deal against a Bucs defense that ranks in the top half in the league in points allowed per game (8th), total defense (11th), rushing defense (10th) and passing defense (16th).
St. Brown leads the Lions in targets (35), receptions (26) and receiving yards (331) despite missing last week's contest.
Rookie defensive back Brian Branch (ankle) and rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs (hamstring) remain day to day, per Campbell. Both sat out the Carolina game and missed practice Wednesday, though Branch was working off to the side with a trainer, which is a good sign he's trending in the right direction.
VETERAN DEPTH ADDED
The Lions signed veteran cornerback Anthony Averett to their practice squad this week as they find themselves a bit shorthanded in the secondary at cornerback after Emmanuel Moseley suffered a torn ACL on Sunday, and with Branch still nursing that ankle injury.
Averett has five years of NFL experience starting 27 games combined with Baltimore and Las Vegas. A former 2018 fourth-round pick, Averett had his best season in 2021, starting 14 games for the Ravens and tallying 11 passes defended and three interceptions. He allowed three touchdown receptions in his coverage area that season.
Averett signed with San Francisco early in training camp but was placed on IR a week later. He agreed to an injury settlement and was released in mid-August.
The Lions also signed tight end Anthony Firkser to the practice squad. He gives them more tight end depth with Darrell Daniels playing more fullback for the injured Jason Cabinda, and with James Mitchell also currently dealing with a hamstring injury that forced him to miss practice Wednesday. Firkser has five years of NFL experience with Tennessee and Atlanta with 115 catches, 1,207 yards, and five touchdowns.
The team released cornerback Darius Phillips and wide receiver Trey Quinn to make room for Averett and Firkser on practice squad.
One thing Detroit has to guard against in this week's matchup with Tampa Bay is the Bucs' ability to generate takeaways. The Bucs are tied for the NFL lead with a plus-seven differential with 10 takeaways in just four games played. The Bucs have six interceptions and four forced fumbles. Since 2019, Tampa Bay ranks fifth in takeaways (112) and second in points off turnovers (410).
"Look, (Bucs LB) Lavonte David for over a decade now ... he's got to be up there for takeaways," Campbell said. "I mean punch outs, strips he's as good as you're going to find. You're going to be hard-pressed to find someone better. He's a takeaway machine.
"(Bucs S Antoine) Winfield (Jr.) is a takeaways machine. And when you have guys that do it they all start doing it. They have long, athletic corners outside. This is a good defense."
The Lions have six giveaways this season on three interceptions and three fumbles.
Running backs coach Scottie Montgomery said Wednesday David Montgomery has really put an emphasis on ball security since losing a fumble Week 2. Montgomery said the ball security in the backfield has been the biggest emphasis.
In practice on Wednesday the backs, tight ends and receivers all went through the padded gauntlet with assistant coaches lined up as they came out of it jabbing and stabbing at the football.
- Get ready for the 'creamsicle' throwbacks the Bucs will be wearing this week. It will be orange jerseys, white pants, orange and white socks and white helmets bearing the 'Bucco Bruce' logo.
- The Lions started the 21-day practice window for cornerback Khalil Dorsey on Wednesday, who's currently on IR and has missed the last four games.
- For the first time in team history, the Lions have rushed for 100 yards and held opponents under 100 yards rushing in each of the first five games of the season. This is the first time a team has done that since 2007.