Allen Park — The Detroit Lions have been dealing with injury issues all season and it’s not getting any better. On Wednesday, the first day of practice ahead of the team’s Week 4 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks, the Lions were without 10 players, including many key starters.
Not practicing for the Lions were running back D’Andre Swift, wide receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown and Josh Reynolds, offensive linemen Frank Ragnow and Jonah Jackson, tight end TJ Hockenson, linebacker Chris Board, defensive lineman John Cominsky, cornerback Bobby Price and kicker Austin Seibert.
Due to the lack of healthy depth, particularly at the skill positions on offense, Lions coach Dan Campbell said the team would be conducting a shorter practice on what is typically the biggest day for installing the game plan, opting to focus more on the mental aspects. of preparing for the Seahawks.
Additionally, with so many unknowns at this stage of the week, it’s complicated the ability to build out that game plan.
“Yeah, it’s not the easiest thing, but you just kind of play the odds, and who does we think has the best chance of playing,” Campbell said. “And you start to lean that way with your game plan early. Then you’re prepared to shift if you need to later. But I think you, for the most part, you go with what your gut tells you with the guys who are going to play. And then, how do we work them into the game plan and give them a chance to succeed.”
From the sounds of it, the Lions aren’t counting on having Swift. The dual-threat running back, who is second on the team in yards from scrimmage, is battling both an ankle sprain suffered in the season opener and a shoulder injury he picked up Sunday against the Vikings. The latter is threatening to keep him out through the team’s bye a couple of weeks down the road.
“It has to be significantly better probably to play (against the Seahawks),” Campbell said. “I mean, it’d have to be the sky’s opened up and the bright light comes out and (he says) ‘I’m good to go, and it feels unbelievable and here we go.'”
So barring the heavens parting, the Lions are likely going to lean on Jamaal Williams, Craig Reynolds and return man Justin Jackson, who has yet to log a carry with the Lions through three games, after leading them in rushing during the preseason.
“It’ll be by committee and we’re confident, very confident,” Campbell said. “(We) trust those guys.”
At receiver, Campbell acknowledged he was feeling more certain about Reynolds being ready to suit up against the Seahawks than St. Brown, the team’s leading receiver. He suffered an ankle injury against the Vikings after cornerback Patrick Peterson rolled him up after a reception. St. Brown returned to that game after getting a tape job, but managed just one reception the rest of the way, snapping his eight-game streak with eight or more catches in the process.
If St. Brown can’t go, the Lions would look to lean more on reserves Kalif Raymond and Quintez Cephus, who had bigger roles in 2021, but have combined for one catch for four yards this season.
“I mean, that’s why we keep the guys we keep, knowing they can go out and produce when we need them to,” receivers coach Antwaan Randle El said. “Remember Q (Cephus) last year, he really started coming on before he got hurt. That was early, but he was coming along, so he’ll pick up right where he left off if we need him to be out there. And Leaf (Raymond) is Leaf. He’s going to do his thing.”
Along the offense line, Jackson has missed the past two games because of a finger injury, while Ragnow returned to the lineup after sitting out Week 2 because of turf toe. That injury is expected to linger and need continued management throughout the year.
If Jackson remains sidelined, the Lions will likely continue to use practice squad Dan Skipper in his stead. The Lions can temporarily elevate him for game day one more time before exhausting that eligibility. After Sunday, they’d need to sign Skipper to the main roster to use him going forward.
Defensively, the Lions are in better shape, health-wise, but the unit did lose safety Tracy Walker to a season-ending Achilles tear this week. And even when the defense has been relatively healthy, they’ve struggled to produce, allowing more points than any team and ranking in the bottom 10 in yards, third-down conversions and red-zone efficiency.
The saving grace for the Lions there might be the Seahawks’ own struggles on offense. After trading away quarterback Russell Wilson this offseason, they’re averaging 15.7 points per game, tied for 28th in the NFL.