Allen Park —The Lions left tackle is back in the fold. The team announced Taylor Decker has been added back to the active roster, off the physically unable to perform list, prior to this weekend’s home game against the Cleveland Browns.
The team also announced backup offensive tackle Corey Robinson has been activated off injured reserve. To clear roster space, the team waived wide receiver Jace Billingsley.
Decker has been out since June when he suffered a shoulder injury during an OTA practice. He returned to practice on Nov. 1 and has finally been given the green light to return to game action, more than five months after having successful surgery to repair a torn labrum.
“Yeah, he’s doing well,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said before Friday’s practice. “He’s been working and (we’re) trying to simulate him as best we can, sort of game-like situations. He’s been doing those things well. We’ve got another day of work today, he’s close.”
The team’s first-round pick in 2016 (No. 16 overall), Decker was immediately thrust into the team’s starting left tackle job. He performed well, despite the magnitude of the transition, showing steady improvement over the course of his rookie season.
He finished the year as one of 17 players across the NFL to play every offensive snap for their team.
Decker’s addition back to the lineup is a welcome one for a unit that’s been one of the NFL’s worst pass-blocking units through eight games. According to Pro Football Focus, only five teams have allowed more quarterback pressure than the Lions, which has translated to 26 sacks.
After Decker’s injury, the Lions traded for a temporary replacement, sending a sixth-round pick to the Los Angeles Rams for Greg Robinson. But the former No. 2 pick struggled mightily in his new setting, allowing quarterback pressure on 24 snaps in six starts, prior to suffering an ankle injury against the New Orleans Saints.
The Lions waived/injured Robinson on Friday, clearing the space to add Decker.
Despite the Browns’ 0-8 record, Decker will draw a stiff challenge his first day back on the job. The opposition counters with defensive end Myles Garrett, the No.1 pick in the 2017 draft.
Garrett has had his own injury issues this season, missing five games with an ankle sprain and a concussion, but he’s been highly productive in the three weeks he’s played, tallying 11 tackles and 4.0 sacks in those contests.
Even with Decker back in the fold, the Lions will have to wait at least another week before fielding the team’s full starting offensive line unit. Guard T.J. Lang, who signed a three-year deal with the Lions this offseason, has been ruled out against the Browns with a concussion.
As for Robinson, he provides the Lions with experienced depth at both tackle spots. A seventh-round draft pick in 2015, he appeared in 14 games for the Lions last season, starting three. He ended last season on injured reserve and was sidelined through training camp with a foot injury.
He was activated off the physically unable to perform list prior to the season opener, but placed on injured reserve the following week, when it became clear the foot needed more time to heal.