No need to sound the alarm just yet. While Calvin Johnson did sit out the Detroit Lions practice this Wednesday, he was seen holding a clipboard, working with the wide receivers group. He appeared to be uninjured, and if he is, it’s likely minor.
Though the injury list is expected to be updated by the Lions soon, I believe Johnson will be starting this Sunday when the Lions face a tough test against the San Francisco 49ers. Matthew Stafford struggled against the St. Louis Rams, throwing three first half interceptions. The Lions will certainly need Johnson against the 49ers, who just beat the potent Green Bay Packers.
It also appears that the Lions can’t catch a break in the defensive backfield. Starting corner back Chris Houston said that he expects to practice Wednesday, which he did. Houston has been out of practice since suffering an ankle injury against the Oakland Raiders in the third game of the preseason. While it’s certainly nice to get another pass defender back, the Lions unfortunately lost rookie corner back Bill Bentley, who started last week against the Rams, due to a concussion. His status for Sunday will likely be doubtful.
Also still absent from practice is starting safety Louis Delmas, who is still missing time from knee surgery. The Lions are hopeful about getting Delmas back soon, and he will certainly be missed headed into week 2, if he is unable to start practicing in the next few days.
The 49ers had a stout defense last year–second in the NFL with only 14.3 points allowed per game–and the Lions will need to move ball efficiently while protecting it, something they didn’t do in week 1. But the difference this year is that the 49ers have an offense to compliment their defense. Niners QB Alex Smith has weapons all over the place, with veteran wide receiver Randy Moss and young guns Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham. He’s also got Vernon Davis, a tight end who’s speed and hand skills make him seem like a huge wide receiver coming off the line.
Throw in running backs Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter, and suddenly the Detroit Lions have their hands full trying shut down a powerful offense. It would be nice to have as many defensive backs ready as we can, but I wouldn’t suggest holding your breathe. Delmas has been out since the start of preseason, and I don’t think Bentley will be ready with how the NFL handles concussions these days. The interior defense is going to have to replicate their performance from week 1, and it starts with the run. If Ndamukong Suh and company can shut down Gore, the 49ers will be forced to go to the air to beat the Lions.