DETROIT – The Detroit Lions have made a couple moves involving two of their key players recently.
Matthew Stafford remains on the roster as he recovers from a back injury. He has not been put on injured reserve despite missing the last five games and the Lions eliminated from the playoffs. However, Stafford’s backup Jeff Driskel has been put on IR and will not play again this season.
Driskel’s replacement David Blough is now the starting QB, and to back him up the Lions have signed QB Kyle Sloter from the Arizona Cardinals practice squad.
Last week, the Lions announced RB Kerryon Johnson had returned to practice. Johnson was placed on IR after getting hurt Week 7 against the Vikings.
Kerryon could return in two weeks against the Denver Broncos.
At running back, Bo Scarbrough has been the starter and has taken most of the carries the last few weeks. He’s done a good job filling in with the Lions running game looking better with him back there.
With other players stepping in to the starting roles and Stafford and Johnson still dealing with their injuries the question is: will the Lions bring Stafford and Johnson back?
Let’s look at reasons why they could or could not return.
Why both players could return: They’ll be healthy
The fact that Stafford has not been put on IR yet leaves open the possibility he could play again this year. Stafford has said he wants to come back if he’s deemed fully healthy.
Stafford suffered the injury November 3 against the Oakland Raiders. A 6-week timeline for broken bones could make Stafford available December 22 for the Lions game against Denver and the season finale against Green Bay.
Kerryon has been out for weeks after having surgery on his knee. Now, he’s back in practice, which opens the door for a potential comeback this year. The Lions will have a couple weeks to make the decision to bring him back or he won’t be able to play until next season.
The Lions say that if both players are healthy, they could bring them back.
In Kerryon’s case, that would be to help him get better and get him more experience.
For Stafford, it’s because the he wants to play, even if the Lions aren’t going to make the playoffs.
They want to win/play spoiler
It’s been a rough season and the pressure is starting to mount for Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn. The best way to alleviate some of that pressure is to win.
Finishing with a couple more wins would show the Lions haven’t completely given up, and could be a confidence boost for the players and front office as a sign things aren’t so bad.
Adding even more of a boost would be beating the Packers and impacting their playoff status in the last game of the year.
If you remember last year: the Lions beat the Packers in the season’s final game, ending the year on a positive note.
Why the won’t bring them back: Injury Concerns
Both Stafford and Johnson are coming off seasons with previous, similar injuries. Stafford ended last year playing with broken bones in his back, started this season with reports that he hadn’t healed completely from that injury and ended up hurting his back again. While he might reach a full recovery soon, a major concern for the Lions would be that he gets hurt again this season.
Johnson ended last season on IR after injuring his knee. He is a young, exciting player that the Lions want to be the running back of the future so they want him back on the field. But getting him up to speed and playing him in the last few games of the year could put him unnecessarily at risk.
Many fans are more focused on the Lions draft pick than the last few games of the season. With the Lions out of the playoffs, you could say a higher draft pick is more valuable than possible wins against the Buccaneers, Broncos or Packers.
The closer the Lions can inch to the top pick in the draft, the better. There are a few big needs for the Lions, one of those being pass rush. If the Lions can get to the top three draft picks, they’ll have their pick of one of their top prospects.
Win one or more of the last few games and the Lions will end up picking where the did last year: closer to the 10th pick than the first. They’ll still get a good player, but maybe not the one they really wanted.