New Orleans — The Lions already had issues along the offensive line, related to subpar blocking. But in the loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, the team suffered multiple injuries, depleting their depth down to its bare bones.
The Lions were forced to scratch right guard T.J. Lang hours before the game when the back injury he suffered two weeks ago flared up in the morning. The next man up was Emmett Cleary, who signed with the team in September.
Cleary said he learned he was making the start two hours before kickoff. Before the Saints game, he had played one offensive snap for the Lions.
During the contest, the Lions suffered three more injuries up front. Right tackle Rick Wagner reaggravated an ankle injury and was in and out of the lineup during the second half. Backup Brian Mihalik gave up one of the five sacks allowed Sunday.
Left tackle Corey Robinson also suffered an ankle injury and had to leave the game late in the third quarter. He did not return. And Cleary left with an undisclosed injury and was replaced by Tim Lelito, another recent addition.
“That’s kind of what happens in games,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “Oftentimes, you can’t predict it, but you have to be able to make adjustments and keep going. That’s why you have 53 players on the roster. That’s why we dress 46 on game day. You’ve got to be able to adjust.”
Caldwell said he was uncertain about Lang’s long-term prognosis. The guard, who started the first five games and had been playing well, was stopped on the sideline before kickoff, walking with a slow, stiff gait.
The Lions are on the bye next week, which should provide some much-needed time to heal up. And although the team provided no recent updates, the next game against the Pittsburgh Steelers would be the first left tackle Taylor Decker is eligible to return off the physically unable to perform list.
Decker has been out since June, following shoulder surgery.