NFC North: Detroit Lions

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – It took seven nickel cornerbacks and one defensive wrinkle, but the Detroit Lions appear to have finally found an answer in how to handle the slot on defense.

Use two different packages, each geared with different down-and-distance in mind along with varying tendencies for an opponent. The Lions brought both nickel packages out Sunday afternoon, essentially one on likely running downs and the other in probable passing situations.

When it appeared the Jets were going to run, Detroit used a defensive package with three safeties: James Ihedigbo, Isa Abdul-Quddus and Glover Quin. The Lions would play Ihedigbo, typically a strong run defender, at his traditional strong safety spot. Abdul-Quddus would handle the free safety role, and Quin dropped down to play the slot corner.

[+] EnlargeEric  Decker
Ron Antonelli/Getty ImagesThe Lions used a couple of different nickel packages with positive results against the Jets.
When the Lions went nickel in traditional passing situations, Detroit kept Ihedigbo and Quin back at safety and brought in Danny Gorrer to handle the slot corner, much like he did last week when Don Carey re-injured his hamstring against Green Bay.

“It worked,” cornerback Rashean Mathis said. “Kudos to the staff, they did a good job of having two guys ready to go, and we need that. We have a lot of versatility in our secondary and it’s showing.”

The Lions used the more traditional nickel package with Gorrer on the field and both Quin and Ihedigbo at safety on 27 plays. Abdul-Quddus played 19 snaps, so that meant 19 plays with Quin down in the bigger nickel.

Ashlee Palmer played 18 snaps, meaning the Lions were in the 4-3 personnel 28 percent of the time Sunday against a heavy run team.

The Lions did this because of New York’s preference to run out of any formation available. New York did rush for 132 yards and 4.9 yards per carry, but 63 of those yards came on the first drive of the game. After that drive, the Lions forced five straight three-and-outs.

“You think about it, they went 12 personnel, which is primary pass form and then they can do some running out of it,” Ihedigbo said. “So to have three safeties in there, it worked out great for us.”

The Lions have some experience with 12 personnel on their own roster, too, as the team has used a single-back, two -receiver, two tight-end set more often this season than last season. So they can practice against this set if necessary.

Detroit guessed right off down-distance pretty well, too. Pro Football Focus had Gorrer on the field for 20 pass plays and Abdul-Quddus for 10 rushing plays.

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin’s newest wrinkle worked with Detroit’s defense, though, in part because Quin has experience playing cornerback. While he has not dropped down and played corner much since moving to Detroit prior to last season, he isn’t a complete neophyte at the position so he can provide some coverage if necessary.

He also has experience playing closer to the line of scrimmage so he can really be used anywhere the Lions would like at this point.

It is part of the flexibility of Detroit’s defense and being able to play veterans at both safety spots.

“It’s just the versatility of our defense,” Ihedigbo said. “With our defense, when you know the whole entire defense, you can implement guys in different spots.

“That’s what makes it so effective.”
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Joique Bell may have suffered a concussion Sunday against the New York Jets, but Jim Caldwell won’t discuss that.

Despite the focus the NFL has placed on brain injuries over the past few seasons, Caldwell said he would continue with his protocol of not discussing injuries to players, whether it is a concussion or not.

Bell
“Only because of the fact that once we start, it snowballs,” Caldwell said. “Then we’re talking next week about another injury. I haven’t done it up to this point and the reason is I don’t plan to start.

“I’ve been around long enough to know those things keep mounting.”

Caldwell wouldn’t officially confirm Bell has a concussion, but Bell was not allowed to talk to reporters after the game, which is consistent with league protocol for when a player is diagnosed with a concussion.

When Caldwell was asked whether it could be assumed Bell has a concussion based off him being unable to talk, he responded with “you can assume whatever you like. It’s up to you.”

The Lions did have some positive injury news, though. Caldwell said quarterback Matthew Stafford is “OK” after being spotted by MLive on Sunday limping and with his right arm and wrist wrapped.

“Physical game, a lot of contact,” Caldwell said. “As you well know, collisions out there so guys are going to sometimes come out of those games pretty sore. I doubt there’s anybody walking in this building that’s played 65 plays like he played that didn’t come out there with some issues.”
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Ndamukong Suh may or may not be in Detroit next fall and right now his head coach, Jim Caldwell, wants nothing to do with talking about the possibility of his defensive tackle not staying in Detroit.

Caldwell
Caldwell
The latest conversation about Suh’s contract saga -- and it officially can go down as that now -- came Sunday when colleague Adam Schefter reported the Lions were preparing for Suh to move on after the season, when he is eligible for free agency.

Suh did not talk with reporters after Sunday’s 24-17 win over the Jets. Caldwell didn’t want to talk about it in New Jersey and he reiterated that back in Michigan on Monday.

“I’m not going to talk about those kinds of things,” Caldwell said. “I think it was addressed early on in the season when [team president] Tom [Lewand] made the last statement he made in regard to it. Other than that, I’m not going to talk about any issues. I’ll talk about the game. I’ll talk about anything else that you want to.

“Other than that, I’m not going to speak on that.”

When he was pressed on the Suh issue, Caldwell eventually tried to cut off questioning with a “next question” reference. Later, he appeared impressed at the persistence of the Detroit press corps when it came to questions about both Suh and about injuries his team suffered.

There is no question, though, about Suh’s importance to the Lions. His presence in the middle of the defensive front four is somewhat akin to what Calvin Johnson does to an opposing defense. Teams need to be aware of where he is on every play because he can wreck a game plan if not dealt with properly.

Caldwell saw this before he arrived in Detroit. Coaching Suh the first four games of the season only confirmed it.

“He’s a guy you have to pay attention to,” Caldwell said. “He certainly warrants double-teams in almost every facet, which opens up the opportunity for some other guys to make plays, whether it’s pass rush or in the run game where they can’t afford to single-block him, necessarily.

“So he gets a lot of attention and I think I mentioned last week if it was hockey, he’d lead the league in assists. He’s certainly a very important guy for us.”

The attention he gets now goes beyond the playing field. The Lions tried to stem this conversation by halting contract talks before the start of training camp and for a few weeks, it appeared to work. Eventually, though, be it now or a month from now, these conversations would once again come to the forefront with Suh.

His impact is obvious. Whether that impact is felt in Detroit by Suh sticking around or leaving is another story all together.

“He’s one of our strong leaders as well,” Caldwell said. “There are a lot of positives that he certainly brings to the table.

“He’s an extraordinary player.”
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – James Ihedigbo was able to whip out his favorite celebration.

In his season debut against one of his old teams, Ihedigbo strip-sacked Geno Smith in the fourth quarter, ending a potential scoring drive and allowing Ihedigbo to make a big play for the first time in 2014.

Ihedigbo
“That’s the GraveDigger,” Ihedigbo said. “That’s the Digg right there. Lions fans can look forward to seeing that.”

Ihedigbo blitzed and overloaded the Jets offensive line. Smith held the ball like the Lions expected, allowing Ihedigbo to rush in and make the play.

Ihedigbo had waited three weeks for a moment like this as he recovered from a neck injury that ended up being more fickle than he expected. He was finally fully cleared earlier this week and practiced fully throughout the week.

At that point he knew he would play and said after he made it through the game feeling good, yet another positive sign in his progression this season. The five tackles and the sack certainly helped.

Earlier in the week, Ihedigbo said he was excited to face his former team, but didn’t want to make the week about him. That he made a big play definitely felt good, though.

Ihedigbo had spent his first three seasons with the Jets, playing on two of Rex Ryan’s teams that made AFC Championship games. He played mostly special teams then but had 20 defensive tackles between the regular season and playoffs in those three years.

“Been biting at the bit to be able to get out there,” Ihedigbo said. “To be able to get out there and play and have an impact, it’s just a solid day’s work.”
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Dominic Raiola snapped the ball on the second-to-last play of the third quarter and in a matter of seconds, Golden Tate already had the thing.

Matthew Stafford threw him a quick route on the right side and Tate had the ball in space with a man to juke out of the way. He did and it was like so many of the other plays Tate made Sunday afternoon against the Jets.

A quick pass to Tate and then let him work, picking up yards upon yards after the catch. With Calvin Johnson hobbled with an ankle injury, it was up to Tate to become the Detroit Lions' No. 1 receiver in their 24-17 win over the New York Jets. Stafford targeted him 10 times and he caught eight of those passes for 116 yards, his fourth career 100-yard game.

It was a reminder that even when Johnson is not fully healthy, the Lions have another player who can play like a top receiver. And that second option has the elusiveness to turn those small plays into massive ones.

"That's huge," Johnson said. "Matt [Stafford] and myself talked about that after the game. That was big-time what Golden did today. That's what we brought him here for."

Consider this, too. For the first time in Johnson's career, the Lions have won a game when he was held to fewer than 20 yards receiving. Until Sunday, Detroit had been 0-6 in those games.

The one Tate play that stood out, though, was the quick hit and then his dash to the end zone that came up a couple yards short. The play helped seal the game for the Lions. It was part of a 90-yard drive that took momentum from New York and gave it back to Detroit.

"That says a lot about any team who can drive 90 yards late in the game like that," Tate said."It was a pretty warm day out there on the road, so it says a lot about us to go 90 and score right there. We were just clicking. We got in a rhythm and moved the ball."

Part of Tate's effectiveness Sunday came because of the Jets' decision to run zone. When Tate lined up in the slot, this sometimes left a linebacker with the task of dealing with Tate. Of course, he was doing more than that. Anything the Jets threw at Tate on Sunday, he was able to squirt out of.

"He beat two men. He beat loaded coverages," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "He beat a lot of different things. The game plan was to stop Calvin Johnson. That was the No. 1 priority.

"We recognize Golden Tate is a good football player."

Tate was reliable, too. Entering Sunday, he had nine third down catches on 11 targets for 122 yards. On Sunday, he had two more third down catches -- two of the six third downs the Lions converted -- for 46 yards, including a 35-yard catch-and-run on the Lions' first drive that led to a field goal.

It is those little things Tate is able to do that makes him so dangerous for the Lions as the second option behind Johnson.

"He has great hands," Lions running back Reggie Bush said. "You guys saw it today. He's a huge playmaker for us. We've seen that throughout the season and you've seen that throughout his career.

"I'm glad he's on our team. That guy is a big spark for us."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Calvin Johnson stood at his locker Sunday afternoon and laughed at the suggestion. His coach, Jim Caldwell, had said that Johnson at 90 percent was better than a lot of players at full strength.

Except Johnson, when he was asked if 90 percent was a fair barometer for his status, was not there.

“Nah,” Johnson said, laughing at the suggestion.

Johnson was limited during the Detroit Lions' 24-17 win over the New York Jets on Sunday after being questionable to play with an ankle injury suffered against Green Bay last week. He was used far less than he had been in the Lions’ first three games, when he was typically in the game for at least 75 percent of the plays.

On Sunday, he rarely played two plays in a row and was only targeted twice by quarterback Matthew Stafford, catching both of those passes for 12 yards. He didn’t have his typical explosiveness or speed and after the game was still noticeably limping.

“Went out there. It was tough but I figured from moving around [on Saturday] that I’d be able to get on the field a little bit,” Johnson said. “It’s good to be out there with the fellas. It sucks to be on the sideline and not be able to play at all. It sucks to have injuries, too, but that’s just part of the game.”

There were times Sunday when Johnson would be in the huddle before a drive began, only to come off the field before the first play even started. He said after that was not a decoy or anything tricky by the Lions but a matter of the plays being called.

He said it was somewhat like when he was limited against Cleveland last season. Against the Browns that day, he had three catches for 25 yards and only ran 28 routes.

“They still had to account for him,” Caldwell said. “We might not have done all of the things that we normally do with him. We just tried to make certain we stayed within the framework of what he could do physically.”

That didn’t appear to be too much Sunday and it isn’t clear how much that will change heading into next week. Johnson did not practice Wednesday or Thursday and then was limited during Friday’s practice.

Johnson said he improved throughout the week to get to the point he was at -- and he was expecting more of the same over the next seven days.

“Things have gotten better all week,” Johnson said. “It was a struggle at first and as the week progressed it got better and better and expect the same thing this week.”
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Detroit Lions' win over the New York Jets.
  • Ebron
    Eric Ebron was extremely happy about his first touchdown. He did it close to his birthplace in Newark, New Jersey. “It was just a blessing, man,” Ebron said. “Obviously it was meant to happen, it was meant to be. It happened, and I couldn’t ask for anything more. I couldn’t ask for a better throw or a better play call.”
  • Reggie Bush is typically one of the last players to leave the Lions’ locker room, and he was in a rush packing up his stuff Sunday afternoon. So much so, he just tossed everything not-so-neatly into his suitcase. “It’s very college-like,” Bush said. He wasn’t the only one with clothing issues. Ebron left his suit in the locker room and Calvin Johnson saw that, so he grabbed it for the rookie on the way out the door.
  • The Lions declined to make running back Joique Bell available for comment after the game. He left the game to be evaluated for a head injury, and when a player can’t talk after a game, that typically means he is being tested for or has been diagnosed with a concussion.
  • Ndamukong Suh was nowhere to be seen in the locker room after the game, as it appeared he cleared out before the media could chat with him. This is typical of him after road games and not surprising after the report Sunday morning that he is preparing to leave Detroit after the season. Lions coach Jim Caldwell declined to discuss the report after the game, saying, "I'm not going to even go there."

Rapid Reaction: Detroit Lions

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 24-17 victory against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.

What it means: For the second straight season, the Lions will leave September with a 3-1 record. However, this Lions team appears to have been better equipped to handle it. Detroit dealt with injuries throughout the game -- running back was the group hit this Sunday -- as well as new players handling different roles this week, including linebacker Tahir Whitehead and tight end Eric Ebron.

That the Lions were able to win fairly convincingly anyway is a good indication of what this team could be over the next few weeks. There are two more winnable games before a showdown against the New Orleans Saints on Oct. 19.

Detroit still has some injury-related questions at this point, but the Lions look to be headed in a good direction a month into the season.

Stock Watch: Rising -- Golden Tate. The No. 2 receiver for the Lions had a No. 1-type day with Calvin Johnson limited. Tate had eight catches for 116 yards and showed exactly why Detroit went after him in free agency. Also rising is the Lions' defense. It is still not a great unit without Stephen Tulloch and has some more holes now, but Teryl Austin called a good game, including his strategy of mixing up nickel packages with Glover Quin and Danny Gorrer, depending on the run/pass situation. Falling -- injuries. The Lions had a lot of them Sunday. Running back Joique Bell left the game with a head injury. Backs Montell Owens and Theo Riddick had hamstring injuries. That could leave the Lions thin at an important offensive position next week.

Johnson limited: Calvin Johnson didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday. He was limited on Friday. That showed on Sunday, when the Lions’ star receiver was clearly nowhere near 100 percent. He rotated in and out of the lineup even more than he has usually and was used as a decoy more often than not, sometimes blocking on passing plays. In all, Matthew Stafford targeted him only twice Sunday, and while he caught both passes, he had nowhere near the burst he typically does.

Game ball: If you’re looking for a reason why the Lions won the game, it was Tate. This was an offense last year that would have flailed about with Johnson as limited as he was. Instead, the Lions still scored three touchdowns and got contributions from the entire offense. But Tate played the role of catalyst, receiving the most targets and the most attention from Stafford.

What’s next: The Lions return home for the Jim Schwartz reunion game against the Buffalo Bills.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Joseph Fauria's ankle injury has ended up benefiting former second round draft pick Ryan Broyles.

The receiver out of Oklahoma, who was the team's second-round selection in 2012, will be active Sunday for the first time this season against the Jets and for the first time since his season-ending Achilles injury last October.

The Lions are likely to use Broyles on offense Sunday, too, as the team will be running different offensive sets due to Fauria's injury. It gives Detroit five active wide receivers and two active tight ends.

Broyles had a standout preseason and the team chose to keep him over Kevin Ogletree last week when they needed to promote cornerback Mohammed Seisay from the practice squad.

Lions inactives: QB Kellen Moore; S Don Carey; CB Cassius Vaughn; LB Travis Lewis; OT LaAdrian Waddle; DE Larry Webster; TE Joseph Fauria
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Ndamukong Suh appears closer to leaving the Detroit Lions, and for anyone who has been paying attention throughout his contract saga, it always appeared to be heading this way.

Once the Lions called off talks with Suh before training camp and once Suh essentially declined to talk about his contract status, everything started to point to the same conclusion colleague Adam Schefter reported early Sunday: Suh is preparing to leave Detroit after the season, and the Lions also are preparing for that possibility.

[+] EnlargeNdamukong Suh
AP Photo/Rick OsentoskiCould this be Ndamukong Suh's final season with the Detroit Lions?
Also note the teams that would be interested in Suh, according to Schefter's report: either New York team, Chicago and Dallas. Three of the biggest markets in the United States for the NFL, and as for the Giants, Bears and Cowboys, three of the Cadillac franchises of the NFL.

While Suh has deflected any sort of talk in the past about making a move to one of these places, it makes sense, since any of these teams would greatly enhance his marketability.

And if the Lions end up without Suh beginning in 2015, it leaves them with some interesting options. The first would be to consider re-signing Nick Fairley, who has been playing consistently throughout the first month of this season, but is also a player whose inconsistency led Detroit to decline his fifth-year option in the first place.

Another is to possibly switch to a 3-4 defense -- something that has long been speculated -- especially since Tahir Whitehead appears to be emerging, giving the Lions a potential linebacking corps of DeAndre Levy, Stephen Tulloch, Whitehead and Kyle Van Noy in the near future.

Considering the Lions have flirted with multiple looks so far this fall, this option would seem to be a real possibility.

The third would be to go through free agency and the draft and target defensive tackles. This might be the most maddening option for the Lions because they could have selected former Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald with the No. 10 pick in May’s draft and instead chose Eric Ebron.

But one thing is certain should Suh’s departure come to pass: The Detroit defense will look a lot different than it has at any point this decade.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – As the Detroit Lions' secondary returns to closer to full strength as James Ihedigbo plans to play, another position group is now feeling a numbers crunch.

The Detroit Lions, for now, have two healthy tight ends: Brandon Pettigrew and Eric Ebron. They were only carrying three on their roster, but the ankle injury to Joseph Fauria during an off-field activity Wednesday night leaves the Lions light at the position.

And it could change the dynamic of a Detroit offense trying to discover its rhythm.

[+] EnlargeEric Ebron
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioRookie Eric Ebron is certain to get more snaps with Joseph Fauria injured.
While Fauria isn’t a massive loss on paper – he only has three catches this season and his touchdown production is way down from his rookie season – it does shift what the Lions are likely to do on offense. Detroit coach Jim Caldwell said Friday that Fauria’s absence will likely force the Lions to use different positional groupings on the field.

Considering Detroit has enjoyed using two-tight end sets often this season, this could mean a shift to more three-receiver looks, at least in the immediate term. This would seem to benefit both Jeremy Ross – the team’s de facto slot receiver – and potentially Ryan Broyles, who has been inactive for the first three games.

This would seem to be how Detroit would likely handle things this week, even if they choose to bring up tight end Jordan Thompson or fullback Emil Igwenagu, who has played tight end, from the practice squad. While looking at fullbacks, Fauria’s injury could mean an increased role for either Jed Collins or Montell Owens if the team needs another blocker or route-runner with some size.

Positionally, those are the likely ways Detroit will replace Fauria on Sunday. Depending how long he is out, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team look at the free agent wire for tight ends as early as Monday.

For Sunday, though, Fauria’s absence ensures a larger role for first-round pick Ebron, who has been splitting reps with Fauria as the No. 2 tight end behind Pettigrew the past three weeks. Those snaps, theoretically, are now all Ebron’s.

On Thursday, Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said at some point he expected Ebron to eventually have a big role in the Detroit offense.

Now, the Lions have little choice but to use him.
MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. – Matthew Stafford leaned back onto the couch inside his trailer Tuesday afternoon, having finished an hours-long commercial shoot a little while before.

It is a commercial that is expected to be released digitally – and one that Pepsi obviously hopes will go viral at some point after shooting the commercial at a local Meijer. Stafford starred in the commercial and while his presence might help drive the video, it is unlikely he’ll be pushing it socially himself.

Social media and Matthew Stafford are pretty far apart. He claims not to have Facebook or Instagram. His Twitter account, @Staff_9, hasn’t been tweeted from in 281 days and counting, where he thanked Paramount Pictures for screening "Anchorman 2" with the Lions.

[+] EnlargeMatthew Stafford
Tim Fuller/USA TODAY SportsMatthew Stafford eschews social media.
The Detroit Lions quarterback prefers it this way as he tries to hold on to some of his private life that has become way more public. When he was drafted out of Georgia with the No. 1 overall pick in 2009 this is what he didn’t see coming.

“Not only in football but just the world, the social media aspect of life is something that five years ago I didn’t think was going to be what it is today and something that personally ... not my favorite thing,” Stafford said. “That everybody has access to you and everybody has an opinion about you and it’s apparently news and all that.

“That’s probably the biggest thing five years ago that if you would have asked me if life was going to be like that, I would have said ‘No way.’ “

By staying away from social media, Stafford is essentially trying to keep the last vestiges of his private life private. He has declined multiple times to talk about his engagement to former Georgia cheerleader Kelly Hall, who posted engagement pictures and pictures of her engagement ring on her Instagram account.

Even she has apparently cooled on Twitter, though, as the once-prolific Tweeter hasn’t sent a message in 144 days and hasn’t tweeted something that didn’t come from her Instagram account in 274 days.

Stafford is similar.

“I try not to put my private life out there as much as I can and don’t pay too much attention to what else is going on,” Stafford said. “There’s so much in my life that is public and talked about every day without my control, I’d like to be able to control as much as I can.”

Trying to live some of his increasingly-public life in private does have disadvantages, though. If there is one regret from choosing to abstain from social media, it is that life has been harder to stay in touch with childhood and college friends whp are now spread out across the country.

It wasn’t something Stafford always understood, but as he has grown in the league and his profile has raised as a quarterback, it is something he now accepts. To try and keep his privacy, there are things he has to give up.

“There’s a positive aspect to social media as far as keeping up with people and what’s going on in people’s lives,” Stafford said. “But that’s a trade-off I’d happily make.”
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- For three weeks, James Ihedigbo has been confident, saying that he planned on playing in games for the Detroit Lions.

And for three weeks, Ihedigbo has ended up watching those games from the sideline -- inactive as he recovered from a nerve issue in his neck that could be good one day and bothersome the next.

Ihedigbo
On Thursday, though, Ihedigbo could comfortably and confidently say that yes, he likely will make his debut Sunday against the New York Jets. Ihedigbo was cleared to practice fully Wednesday -- the first time he has fully practiced the entire regular season.

Then he woke up Thursday morning and "felt great," so barring a setback he is ready for his debut.

"Pretty much done everything that’s been asked of me," Ihedigbo said. "It’s a great sign to be back as close to 100 percent as possible and look forward to rocking."

Rocking, in tackling terms, is one of Ihedigbo’s biggest strengths with the Lions. He was signed to be more of a run stopper, a good complement to Glover Quin, who would now have the chance to roam the field more as a free safety.

While defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said nothing changed in the scheme when Ihedigbo went down and was replaced by Isa Abdul-Quddus, this wasn’t the safety tandem they envisioned when they signed Ihedigbo to replace Louis Delmas.

Now, they will show what they were hoping for from the beginning.

"We have good chemistry and great communication," Quin said. "With great communication, you have guys in the same spot, guys in the right areas knowing what to expect and allowing guys to make plays.

"If we can do a great job of making the right calls on the back end and communicating effectively, me trusting him, him trusting me, us working off each other, we can do a good job hopefully confusing the quarterback."

Sunday presents a good opportunity, as Jets quarterback Geno Smith has thrown four interceptions in three games and is completing 63.1 percent of his passes. In his first 19 games, Smith has thrown 25 interceptions.

But Ihedigbo's physical style and run-stopping capability is especially important this week because New York has the top-rated rushing offense in the NFL. Chris Johnson, who is the speed back, and Chris Ivory ,the power runner, are essentially splitting carries.

Johnson has 123 yards rushing and a touchdown. Ivory has 190 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

Plus, having Ihedigbo back gives the Lions some depth at safety for the first time this season. He had 99 tackles last season for Baltimore and had a plus-8.0 run-defense grade for the Ravens last season, best among the team’s defensive backs.

"It’ll be good in the running game," Austin said. "He’s a big body. He is a good tackler. He plays well close to the line of scrimmage.

"So it’ll be good to get him back."

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Calvin Johnson missed his first practice of the season with an ankle injury on Wednesday, but he is not yet concerned about missing Sunday's game against the New York Jets.

"I’m not concerned about it," Johnson said. "When those things happen, get in here and just work and work and work until things get right."

Johnson injured the ankle late during the Detroit Lions' 19-7 win over the Green Bay Packers. He didn't seem too concerned about the injury then, either.

Johnson
So far this season, Johnson has caught 19 passes for 329 yards and two touchdowns.

Johnson played 14 games last season -- many of them with a busted-up finger and ailing knee, both of which required surgery after the season. He still caught 84 passes for 1,492 yards and 12 touchdowns with the injuries.

Johnson was one of four Lions players to miss practice Wednesday, joining Travis Lewis (quad), Don Carey (hamstring) and Cassius Vaughn (ankle).

Five players -- including four starters -- were limited Wednesday: defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (knee), running back Joique Bell (knee), defensive tackle Nick Fairley (bicep), fullback Montell Owens (hamstring) and right tackle LaAdrian Waddle (calf).

In better news for Detroit, safety James Ihedigbo practiced fully for the first time this regular season as he recovers from a neck injury. Pay attention to his status Thursday. If he practices fully then, it could mean he will end up making his debut with the Lions on Sunday.
Johnson
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Last season, Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson was a typical no-show at Wednesday practices as he rested his knee and finger. This season, though, Johnson missed practice for the first time Wednesday.

He was one of four Lions not spotted during the media portion of practice along with linebacker Travis Lewis, cornerback Cassius Vaughn and safety Don Carey.

Johnson appeared to tweak his ankle during Sunday's win against Green Bay, but didn't seem too concerned about it after the game. Lewis sat out last week with a quad injury. Vaughn missed the Packers' game with an ankle injury and was in a walking boot. Carey tweaked his hamstring early against Green Bay and did not return.

Right tackle LaAdrian Waddle, as he said he would Monday, returned to practice but was mostly standing off to the side during the portion of practice the media was able to watch. Also, James Ihedigbo was at practice and participating.

Also, for the first time, a couple of Lions players were spotted in different yellow jerseys -- likely signifying they are simulating Jets players in practice. Tight end Jordan Thompson was wearing the No. 85 of Jeff Cumberland and Andrew Peacock was wearing the No. 11 of Jeremy Kerley.

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