As the Detroit Lions took to the field for a final practice before they go up against the Green Bay Packers this Sunday. The Lions were once again without offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle (calf), linebacker Travis Lewis (quadriceps) and cornerback Cassius Vaughn (ankle). However, the good news is that Lions did finally allow defensive ends Ziggy Ansah (knee) and George Johnson to practice which is key considering Ansah was held out of practice all week, while Johnson was limited mostly all week.
As I mentioned yesterday, both players are key to the Lions success up front. When you consider the fact that the Lions will be going up against quarterback Aaron Rodgers this Sunday, there is no doubt they will need thier front line to be strong both in the run and the passing game. In fact, before practice head coach Jim Caldwell talked about the impact that Ansah can have both in the run game and the pass game.
“(Ziggy Ansah) does provide pressure for us.” Caldwell said before practice on Friday. “He’s done a good job of collapsing the pocket. He’s certainly done a fine job also when there have been guys who have been able to escape and get out on the perimeter, he can run them down, he’s got good speed and he’s also been a force in the running game as well.”
Caldwell is completely right. In the first two games of the season, Ansah has not only been huge in slowing down the run game but he has also been key in pressuring the quarterback, seeing that he has recorded a half sack in each of the first two games of the season. The same goes for Johnson, who is another key part to the defensive line, considering he already has 1.5 sacks this year.
Although, it is good sign that Ansah and Johnson were back in action on the practice field today, considering it could mean that both players suit up against the Packers this Sunday.
It wasn’t a good sign that veteran cornerback Cassius Vaughn did not practice again, after being held out and limited all week-long.
Now why am I making a big deal out of Vaughn not practice? Mainly, because after signing cornerback Danny Gorrer and getting back safety Don Carey, it finally looked like the Lions were adding the depth that so desperately needed after losing cornerbacks Bill Bentley and Nevin Lawson. However, due to the lack of participation by Vaughn in practice, only proves that secondary injury woes are still continuously spiraling.
Nevertheless, the good news in this situation is that the Lions understand how to deal with an injury to a secondary and work around it.
“In this league you got to make adjustments.” Caldwell replied. “That’s one of the things early in the year, we would talk about the difficulty of playing in the national football league, there are going to be guys who are going to be up and going to be down. There are going to be situations where we have to adjust and I think our guys from an intellectual standpoint feel and understand that they can adapt better than anyone.”
What the Lions are genuinely adapting to in this situation is the nikelback position.One of the ways that the Lions can and probably work around it, is with newly signed cornerback Danny Gorrer, fresh leg safety Don Carey or with veteran cornerback Rashean Mathis.
“We have a few different guys that can work (at nickle.)” Caldwell replied. “That’s the great thing about it because we do have some guys who are flexible. (Danny) Gorrer is certainly a guy who plays the nickel. Also Don Carey is also guy that plays the nickel as well. Rashean Mathis can play the nickel if need be, he can slide inside, he’s real versatile and he has done it before … So we do have some options there.”
Everyone that Caldwell mentioned are certainly options.
When it comes to Gorrer, he is already familiar with the defensive scheme, after playing under Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin in Baltimore. Plus he has the intangibles and versatility to play both inside and outside. Not to mention he played some nickel for coach Austin in Baltimore, as well as in Tampa.
“I have a little bit of experience (at playing nickel), but we’ll see how that goes,” Gorrer said Wednesday. “Whatever they need me to do, I’m kind of open to do whatever to help this team … I just want to play football, and win games. It doesn’t matter if it’s inside or outside. I just want to play football.”
Carey who is fresh off a hamstring injury, is also more than capable of playing nickel, despite his natural position being safety.
“I’m staying ready for everything I can stay ready for. You have to be ready, especially with the things going on here,” Carey replied Thursday. “You never know what the team will need you to do, so the more you can do the better.”
When it comes to Mathis, we already know he is a do-it-all type cornerback veteran. In fact, Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers spoke very highly of him earlier this week.
“Well, I’ve played against Rashean (Mathis) a number of times and he’s a veteran guy and the game has obviously slowed down for him considerably over the years.” Rodgers said on Wednesday. “He’s able to diagnose plays very quickly and has a good break on the ball along with good ball skills. He does a good job of route recognition and anytime you have a veteran guy like that in the group it can only help the young guys like Darius (Slay) in making the jump that a lot of players do earlier in their career and between years.”
So is it good thing that Vaughn may not be able to play this week? Not at all.
However, does it help that the Lions have some various options that they can call on and count on to produce while Vaughn is out? Absolutely.
Lions may be going through some injur woes right now but it helps that they have coaching staff, who knows how to handle it and role with the punches.
“There are some things you can do exactly the same,” Caldwell said. “There are some things that happen where all of a sudden you have to play towards that individual’s strengths so it allows you to do some things that you weren’t able to do before.
“The antithesis of that would be that there are some weaknesses that may come to light as well so schematically you want to stay away from those things that put you in bad positions.”
Written by LBeasley (Lauren Beasley), Sports Editor of Radio One Detroit
For more of L-Beasley’s (Lauren Beasley) sports news and in-depth sports content, click here.