Wed, 08 Dec 2021

NOTEBOOK: Decker & Strong return to practice

Detroit Lions
15 Oct 2021, 19:25 GMT+10

Tim Twentyman

Detroit has been riddled by injuries early on this season.

Lions head coach Dan Campbell will never use the injuries as an excuse, but even he joked Wednesday that he was looking at the roster board two days ago and had to do a double take at the size of the injured reserve section.

The Lions have 13 players currently on injured reserve, including key players like center Frank Ragnow, outside linebacker Romeo Okwara and cornerback Jeff Okudah, just to name a few.

But there finally appears to be a little bit of good news on the injury front for Detroit.

Veteran left tackle Taylor Decker and defensive end Kevin Strong returned to the practice field Wednesday.

"We'll just see where Decker goes and how he feels and just take it from there," Campbell said before practice Wednesday. "But, at least we can start working with him on the field, true football."

In Decker, the Lions will be getting a Top 12 tackle in the league back in action. It's not yet clear if he'll be ready to play Sunday vs. Cincinnati, but when he does return, the plan is to put him at left tackle and move rookie Penei Sewell back to right tackle.

Decker's missed the first five games after injuring his finger/hand in practice the week leading up to Detroit's season opener vs. San Francisco. It was a tough injury for the Lions considering Decker is coming off his best season in 2020, allowing just two sacks in 16 games and being flagged for only one holding penalty all year. Getting him back, whenever that is, will be a big boost for Detroit upfront.

Strong left Detroit's Week 1 contest with a concussion. He was on track to return but suffered a thigh injury in practice that landed him on injured reserve. He provides terrific depth and strength along Detroit's defensive front. He recorded three solo tackles in the opener against San Francisco before leaving, and had 15 tackles and a sack in six games for Detroit last season.

The Lions have 21 days from the first practice for Decker and Strong to decide if they'll return to the active roster or revert back to IR for the remainder of the season.

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CONTAINING CHASE

Bengals rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase's NFL career is off to a heck of a start.

He's got 23 catches for 456 yards and five touchdowns through Cincinnati's first five contests.

He leads all rookies with five receiving touchdowns and is just the third rookie since 1990 with five-plus receiving touchdowns in a team's first five games of the season. He leads the NFL in receptions of 40 or more yards (4), and is tied for seventh in receptions of at least 20 yards (7).

Chase and former Lions receiver Earl McCullough are the only two players in NFL history with a reception of at least 30 yards in each of their first five career games, per Bengals.com.

Detroit's defense has given up a 40-plus-yard pass in four of its five games this season and has allowed 22 pass completions of 20-plus yards, which is tied for the fifth most in the NFL.

HARRIS HOT STREAK

Outside linebacker Charles Harris recorded another sack Sunday in Minnesota, giving him a career high 4.0 on the year. It's the fourth straight game Harris has recorded a sack. One more Sunday vs. Cincinnati would establish a new team record of five straight games with a sack.

Harris has been a great story all year for the Lions. The former first-round pick has found a scheme here in Detroit that really seems to fit his skill set.

"There were certain situations where schematically there were things he was being asked to do previously when I went back and watched his tape that didn't fit his play style really," Lions outside linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard said Wednesday of Harris.

"I think he's fit to be a true outside linebacker edge player. You saw previously guys worked him inside five technique and even some systems all the way down to the 4 and that's not what he's built to do. He's a very physical, quick-twitchy player, so he gets on and off of blocks well. You have to have a motor to do a lot of things Charles Harris does on tape and it's non-stop from the first whistle to the last."

Harris has been a consistent performer, and will be looking to keep it up Sunday at Ford Field against the Bengals.

SUCCESSFUL SURGERY FOR RAGNOW

Frank Ragnow had successful toe surgery on Tuesday and will miss the rest of the 2021 season.

Campbell said surgery went well, but Ragnow didn't want to have it initially knowing it would end his season.

"He feels guilty and he doesn't need to feel guilty," Campbell said. "That's why you love him though. Like, he wants to be a part of this and he feels like he's letting guys down and that's just the opposite. It's like, 'No, it's not. You're being unselfish when you need to be selfish about this.'

"Maybe there's a chance you get him back at the very end of the year, but there's a bigger chance of however it scars in, it's not properly healed the right way and we're dealing with this for the rest of his career, or it gets arthritic sooner than later, and now it's like, 'What are we doing?' So, it was the right thing to do. It was significant enough to where it needed to be fixed properly and let it heal properly."

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