On Tuesday, the Detroit Lions officially placed EDGE rusher Romeo Okwara on injured reserve with an Achilles injury, ending his 2021 season and beginning the long road to recovery.
On Wednesday, center Frank Ragnow joined him. While Ragnow’s injury is not believed to be season ending, his “turf toe” injury will now keep him out for at least the next three games, making him eligible to play next in Week 8 against the Philadelphia Eagles. In his place, Evan Brown is expected to start, and newly-signed Ryan McCollum will serve as backup.
Detroit’s biggest strength this season—their offensive line—now has its two best pieces (Ragnow and left tackle Taylor Decker) on IR. Decker is eligible to return from injured reserve when healthy, but head coach Dan Campbell said that is unlikely to happen this week.
With Okwara done for the year and Trey Flowers dealing with shoulder and knee injuries that have caused him to miss the last two games, the Lions signed EDGE Jesse Lemonier from the practice squad to the active roster to help with depth issues.
Lemonier was signed to the practice squad in early September after spending the 2020 season and 2021 offseason with the Los Angeles Chargers. During his 2020 season—playing under then-head coach, now Lions’ offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn—Lemonier alternated between the practice squad and active roster, playing in a total of six games. Most of Lemonier’s contributions came via special teams, but he did flash some pass-rushing potential and was credited with five quarterback pressures and two sacks.
The Lions’ edge players had a phenomenal game against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3, but after Okwara went down in Week 4, the Lions fell apart on the edge, especially against the run. As Jeremy Reisman pointed out in his “things I learned” piece from last Sunday, “both Charles Harris (38.2 PFF run-defense grade) and Austin Bryant (58.7) struggled to hold the edge against the Bears.” On the bright side, Julian Okwara continues to play well in a situation role (he only had 12 snaps in Week 4), but he is clearly behind Harris and Bryant in the rotation at the moment.
The Lions have said they are awarding playing time to their edge players based on how they perform in practice, which will give Lemonier a chance to earn a role on game day, but if Flowers is unable to play for a third week in a row, they will need Lemonier to be ready regardless.
In addition to these moves, the Lions also removed kicker Austin Seibert from the reserve/COVID-19 list, released wide receiver Javon McKinley from the practice squad and signed edge defender Rashod Berry and guard Parker Ehinger to the practice squad.