The Detroit Lions entered the season with the youngest cornerback room in the NFL, but a string of injuries has made it tough to evaluate exactly what they have at the position.
Undrafted rookie Jerry Jacobs is the latest Lions cornerback to suffer a major injury.
Jacobs tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the first quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Denver Broncos and will miss the rest of the season.
“This is a minor setback for a major comeback,” Jacobs wrote Monday on Twitter. “I can’t wait to get back on the field and play for the best fans in the NFL. Tough times don’t last, tough people do.”
Lions coach Dan Campbell said Jacobs faces a nine-month recovery from surgery, which puts his availability for the start of the 2022 season in question.
Jacobs, who tore the ACL in his right knee in college, had been the crown jewel of the Lions’ undrafted free agent class. He started nine games, broke up seven passes and allowed just 59% of the balls thrown his way to be completed, according to Pro Football Reference.
The Lions had viewed Jacobs as a potential starter in 2022 alongside Amani Oruwariye, and Campbell insisted Monday they remain confident in his future.
“He’s improved so much, particularly from spring just to where he’s been playing lately and really, before he got hurt, he’d already been doing some good things,” Campbell said. “So you hate it for him. You don’t want any of your guys to get hurt, particularly one of these long-term injuries. And the other thing is I hate that it happened now in December. That’s probably a nine-month injury, somewhere in there. But the good news is it’s repairable, he’ll work at it, he’ll come back and he’ll be better than he was. But yeah, you hate it. You hate it for him and you hate it for our team.”
Along with Jacobs, first- or second-year cornerbacks Jeff Okudah, Ifeatu Melifonwu and A.J. Parker also have missed significant time this season.
Okudah, the No. 3 pick in the 2020 draft, ruptured his Achilles tendon in September. He had a rough rookie season and will enter 2022 having played in just 10 of a possible 33 games.
Melifonwu, a third-round pick this season, missed nine games with a quad injury and is currently on the reserve/COVID-19 list. And Parker, who opened the season as the Lions’ starting slot cornerback, went on injured reserve last month with an ankle injury.
Oruwariye, a fifth-round pick in 2019, is the only Lions cornerback to play in every game this season.
The Lions, already with needs at quarterback, receiver, pass rusher, linebacker and safety, may need to add a starting-caliber cornerback to pair with him in the offseason.
“It’s not ideal,” Campbell said of the Lions’ cornerback injuries. “But I think that certainly you love what you saw out of Jerry, and Iffy before he got hurt was making some strides. And so, I think it gives us at least a jumpstart on what we think we have in the room. It’s not ideal, but yet it’s not a lost cause, either.”