After sitting out Detroit's Week 5 victory over Green Bay due to a concussion, the Lions welcomed back veteran guard T.J. Lang to practice Wednesday in the team's first practice following their bye week.
Lang suffered the concussion early in Detroit's Week 4 loss in Dallas, and hasn't practiced or played since. Getting back on the practice field and going through some physical activity is an important part of the return-to-play protocol. The Lions officially listed Lang as a limited participant in Wednesday's practice. We'll see Friday what his status for Sunday's game will be.
Lang is among the top graded right guards in football by Pro Football Focus, and he's Detroit's veteran leader and anchor upfront. Kenny Wiggins has held down the fort while Lang's missed two games with the concussion, and earlier due to a back injury. Potentially getting Lang back will be a big boost for a Lions team headed to a hostile environment in Miami Sunday looking to get back to .500 in the standings.
Lang hasn't allowed a sack or quarterback hit this season, and has only allowed two pressures in 152 snaps. Wiggins has allowed 11 pressures in 187 snaps.
"You always miss guys that are out of the lineup that have played a lot of football for you," Lions head coach Matt Patricia said. "Those guys have a valuable experience that they see things that maybe they can communicate better or maybe they understand quicker."
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018.
REPLACING AGNEW IN SLOT
Jamal Agnew has played the most snaps this season in the slot for the Lions, but unfortunately the Lions won't have his services for at least the next eight weeks after they placed the second-year cornerback on IR (knee) this week.
It means the Lions will have to find a new option or options for the nickel cornerback role. Patricia could turn to one player to fill the majority of the role or treat it differently week to week based on matchups.
The Lions have a number of players who have experience in the slot.
Nevin Lawson began his career in the slot, though he's been pretty good so far this season for the Lions on the outside opposite Darius Slay. Lawson has been in coverage on 155 pass snaps and has only been thrown at 19 times, allowing just nine receptions.
"It's two different roles," Lawson said of playing outside vs. inside. "On the outside, it's really an island. You're really by yourself.
"When you're in the nickel, you have to constantly communicate with the safeties and the linebackers. It's definitely different knowing what to do, making sure you know what to do with you, the linebackers and the safeties all on the same page."
Quandre Diggs was Detroit's primary nickel corner the last few years before making the move to safety. Could he slide back into that role with the rookie Tracy Walker then seeing more time at safety alongside Glover Quin?
Cre'Von LeBlanc, Lenzy Pipkins, Teez Tabor and even safety Tavon Wilson could also play inside if needed.
The Lions have options, so it will be interesting to see how they treat that crucial role moving forward.
If any Lions fans caught the Bears-Dolphins game this past weekend, they would have spotted the Bears using large almost table-top-like objects held up over the players to try and provide shade along their bench.
Hard Rock Stadium in Miami is configured in such a way that for day games, the Dolphins enjoy a shaded sideline, while the opponent bakes in the Florida sun. It's a little home-field cooking for them.
"Over the last several years I've noticed that on tape," Patricia said Wednesday about opponents playing there finding ways to create some shade. "I think Pittsburgh maybe a couple years ago was the first team I noticed that had that down there because of the heat and just trying to keep the sun off of them while they're on the bench.
"You're obviously allowed to do that. There are certain things that on the sideline have to be equal for both teams, and as the home team you're providing a lot of that stuff. But there's no restriction as far as those kind of temporary shade mechanisms that you saw with the guys holding them up. You can certainly do that."
Don't be surprised if the Lions try to do something similar to what Chicago, Pittsburgh and others have tried in terms of finding some shade, though Patricia admitted Wednesday it wasn't high on his priority list at the moment.
"Right now I'm just trying to get them slowed down here a little bit on offense," he said. "People get caught up in the temperature and the rest of it down there, but we just have to be in good shape. We have to be able to go down there and play a 60-minute football game and we'll figure out the rest of it later."