By Chris Morgan
Detroit is coming off a very disappointing 2012 season––they saw themselves fall from a playoff team in 2011 to a 4-12 cellar dweller. They now get the chance to make amends and begin anew with the 2013 season beginning on Sunday.
The Lions open the year against their NFC North rivals, the Minnesota Vikings. Detroit will hope to get the year off on the right foot, and having a healthy team would, obviously, be very beneficial in that regard. Before the season began, the Lions put a couple of players on injured reserve, with tight end Michael Williams out for the year and running back Montel Owens put on short-term injured reserve with his knee injury. However, neither of those players would be expected to make a big impact. This is very different than three other names that are on the Lions’ injury report. These three players, Ezekiel Ansah, Louis Delmas, and Calvin Johnson, are expected to be key cogs in Detroit’s lineup. Missing any of them could be an issue in Detroit’s attempt to vanquish the Vikings.
The name that probably jumps out most to the casual observer, or even the hardcore fan, is Johnson. This makes sense, as Megatron is coming off a fantastic season, and he is considered by most to be the best wide receiver in the NFL. Johnson has been dealing with a knee injury for a while, an injury that kept him out of preseason action. Fortunately, he is listed as probable for week one. He has been practicing, and this injury was never considered serious. It was merely a matter of not wanting to risk the health of a player as important as Johnson. He is a great player, and he doesn’t really need a ton of reps in practice or in games that don’t count. Last year he dealt with being beat up a bit and still had amazing numbers. There is no reason to be worried about this knee issue.
Delmas’ knee injury is more concerning, even though he, too, is listed as probable for Sunday’s opener. Delmas is a very talented player, but he has been injury prone his entire NFL career. When healthy, he is one of the best safeties in the league. All the stats show how much better the Lions’ defense is when he is on the field as opposed to when he hasn’t been able to play, which has, unfortunately, been often. He has been a limited participant in recent practices, but this may just be Detroit being careful with a player who they know they need, and who they know has a history of being injured. Expect Delmas to play, but don’t be surprised if he sees his snaps limited.
That just leaves Ansah, who Detroit took with the fifth overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. There has been talk that Ansah had a concussion, but nothing was mentioned officially, until recently when the team finally announced that, indeed, Ansah had suffered a concussion during an August 24 practice. Ansah has been at practices recent, but he hasn’t been putting on pads or going through drills. The issue with concussions, other than the fact they are serious, is that there is not a definitive timetable. This is why Ansah is questionable for the Vikings game. Maybe he will be able to play, and maybe he will not. This may be an obvious statement, but it is also the only thing we know for sure.
Not having Ansah would be an issue for Detroit’s defensive line. While Ansah is considered a raw defensive end prospect, he has talent, and Detroit doesn’t have a ton of depth at pass rusher now that Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch are gone. Jason Jones and Israel Idonije are both new to the team and more run stoppers than pass rushers. This would leave Willie Young and rookie Devin Taylor more important for Detroit as they get after Christian Ponder. Fortunately, the Lions do have two of the best pass rushing defensive tackles in the league in Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.
While Detroit’s offense looks like it will be at full strength to open the season, two possible starters on defense may be missing. While the Vikings aren’t likely to be good at passing the ball this year, they do have Adrian Peterson, and you want all your best players out there to try and stop him. Will Delmas and Ansah be able to contribute to the cause? Or will Detroit begin the year shorthanded?
Wide receiver Calvin Johnson (knee)
Safety Louis Delmas (knee)
Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (concussion)
For more news and updates, visit Lions Central.
Chris Morgan has been a diehard Detroit Lions fan through the good (Barry Sanders) and the bad (Matt Millen) and that love has led him to take jobs writing about sports, including as a fantasy sports “expert.” His work can be found on Examiner.com. .