Four downs: Lions’ loss of Swanson, Wilson add to woes
The Lions had two key starters go down with injuries in the second half of the team’s loss to the Vikings and coach Jim Caldwell had no update on the long-term prognosis for either safety Tavon Wilson or center Travis Swanson.
Wilson has been battling a shoulder injury since training camp, and landed hard on it when breaking up a deep pass in the third quarter. Minutes later, he was ruled doubtful to return.
He was sidelined one game and limited in another earlier this season. If he misses more time, the Lions are in a good spot with their depth at the position. Miles Killebrew is more than prepared to play a bigger role.
If the Lions need to replace Swanson, who hurt his knee, it would be more problematic. Even though he’s struggled this season, and the Lions are able to slide Graham Glasgow into the spot, the Lions’ backup guard situation isn’t great. Corey Robinson got the nod down the stretch, and the tackle has looked lost at times with his assignments.
It could open the door for Don Barclay to get a look. We likely won’t know more with either Wilson or Swanson until next week.
The Lions claimed defensive end Dwight Freeney off waivers on Wednesday, but weren’t comfortable putting him on the field a day later.
“If he played it’d probably be the shortest turnaround that anybody has ever had,” Caldwell said. “He’ll be ready next week.”
Freeney had played Monday night with the Seahawks, meaning it would have been about 60 hours between final whistle to opening kickoff on Thursday, on top of the unreasonable expectation he pick up a base level understanding of Detroit’s scheme in fewer than 24 hours.
The Lions’ pass rush has been anemic this season, but was a little better against the Vikings — getting home for two sacks and nine total hits on quarterback Case Keenum.
No one wants to hear the positives after a tough loss, especially a game that carried significant playoff implications, but can we take a minute to appreciate how good Marvin Jones is playing right now?
A year after his red-hot start morphed into a missing person report, Jones has been far more consistent down the stretch in his second season with the Lions. He finished with six catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns against the Vikings, including an improbable 43-yard score against double-coverage.
Jones has now topped 100 yards in three of the past five games, with four touchdowns during the stretch. He’s been the Lions’ most reliable downfield weapon in 2017, catching a league-high five touchdown passes of 20 yards or more.
He’s on pace for his first 1,000-yard season and is currently second in the NFL with eight TDs.
The Lions had struggled to defend read-option quarterbacks the past two weeks, but they should be embarrassed by the fact they let Keenum, not known for his mobility, to utilize the call to score a 9-yard touchdown.
It’s reached a point where the Lions should expect to see it almost every week until they learn how to properly defend it. This week’s victim, after getting burned on similar calls twice a week earlier against the Bears, was defensive end Anthony Zettel.
“(Keenum) did a nice job with it today, made some plays on it,” Caldwell said. “We’ve just got to get a little bit better handling those things.”